Mark Allen Smith The Inquisitor: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781427214775

The Inquisitor: A Novel

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9781427214775: The Inquisitor: A Novel

A spectacularly original thriller about a professional torturer who has a strict code, a mysterious past, and a dangerous conviction that he can save the life of an innocent child

Geiger has a gift: he knows a lie the instant he hears it. And in his business―called "information retrieval" by its practitioners―that gift is invaluable, because truth is the hottest thing on the market.

Geiger's clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques―some physical, many psychological―to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Because only then will they finally stop lying.

One of Geiger's rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy's secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary.

Mesmerizing and heart-in-your-throat compelling, Mark Allen Smith's The Inquisitor is a completely unique thriller that introduces both an unforgettable protagonist and a major new talent.

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About the Author:

Mark Allen Smith, who lives in New York City, has worked for many years in both movies and television as a screenwriter, investigative news producer, and documentary filmmaker. The Inquisitor is his first novel.

Ari Fliakos is an actor with experience in television, radio, film, theater, and voiceovers. His narration of Seth Patrick's Reviver won an Audie for paranormal fiction. He has narrated Black Site and Tier One Wild by Dalton Fury, as well as Gangster Squad, The Inquisitor, and Shotgun Lovesongs. On screen, he is best-known for his roles in Law & Order, Pills, and Company K.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
 

At four A.M., standing on the stoop outside his back door, Geiger watched a spider weave its web.
It was raining. The sky, ash-gray and cloudy, was gathered at the horizon like an old quilt. A drop of water clung to one strand of a new web that stretched from the porch overhang to the wooden railing four feet below. The breeze plucked the strand like a guitar string; the raindrop trembled but held fast. Then the spider came down, plump belly swaying, and began weaving a new strand.
Earlier, Geiger had been typing up his notes on the session with Matthew. As Sgt. Pepper came to him through the six-foot Hyperions, he felt the superb bass response, right down to the click of McCartney’s pick on his guitar strings. The cat, as usual, was lying on the desk, stretched out beside the right end of his keyboard, a front paw rising and tapping at Geiger’s hand whenever he went more than a few minutes without being scratched. The near rumble of his purr was loudest when Geiger scratched the scar above his missing left eye. Geiger didn’t know the circumstance of the injury; the animal had looked this way when he showed up on the back stoop three years ago. Nor did he know the cat’s name or where he was from—which is to say, the two were somewhat alike.
Geiger always wrote notes the same night of a session, while actions and reactions were fresh in his mind. He found that even a few hours of sleep could smudge the edges of memory. The next day, his partner, Harry, would e-mail a transcript he had made from the video of the session, and Geiger would go through it and insert comments at relevant spots.
He worked while sitting in an ergonomic desk chair, built specially for him. But he still had to get up every fifteen minutes and walk or his left leg would go pins and needles down to his toes. Over the years he’d seen three specialists about the problem—one doctor had called it “deadfoot”—but they all said the same thing: the only recourse was reconstructive surgery. Geiger told them that no one was going to use any kind of blade on him, for any reason. Having just examined him, they understood his feelings on the subject.
Geiger had stepped out back to lose the numbness and have a cigarette. He didn’t smoke inside. He found that the smell of stale smoke in a room affected his focus. Months ago, when he was new on the couch, Dr. Corley had traced that back to his father and his endless Camels. To date, that was the only picture of his father Corley had been able to pull out of Geiger—in a dream, Geiger had seen his father’s stony face staring down at him, a cigarette clamped between full lips, smoke curling out of his nostrils. Geiger had remembered thinking, This is what God looks like. Only taller.
He felt the cat, which had just come out the open door, rub against his ankles. He picked the animal up and draped the furry body over his shoulder. Other than the perch on the desk, this was the cat’s favorite spot.
Geiger lit a Lucky Strike and watched the spider. Full of purpose, it performed its singular task with innumerable perfect strokes. Imagine a carpenter who could spit out nails made in his gut and use his hands as hammers. Imagine a musician whose instrument was his own body. Geiger wondered, Is there any other being so diligent and artistic at creating a killing apparatus—besides man?
*   *   *
Geiger was an apostle, a slave to the specific. He was constantly breaking down, distilling, and defining parts of the whole, because in IR—information retrieval—the details were crucial. His goal was to refine the process to an art, which was why every single thing that happened from the moment Geiger walked into the room had its own degree of significance and required recognition. Each facial expression; each spoken word and silence; each tic, glance, and movement. Give him fifteen minutes in the room with a Jones and nine out of ten times he would know what the reaction to a particular action would be before the Jones made it: fear, defiance, desperation, bravado, denial. There were patterns, cycles, behavioral refrains. You just had to pay very close attention to see them all. He’d learned that by listening to music; he’d come to understand how every note plays a part in the whole, how each sound affects and complements the rest. He could hum every note in a thousand pieces of music. They were all in his head. In music, as in IR, everything mattered.
Still, even with the countless elements that could come into play, Geiger’s view of his work was relatively simple. The client and the Jones almost always presented him with one of three basic scenarios.
No. 1: Theft. The Jones had stolen something from the client and the client wanted it back.
No. 2: Betrayal. The Jones had committed an act of disloyalty or treachery and the client wanted to learn the identity of any accomplices and the extent of potential repercussions.
No. 3: Need. The Jones possessed information or knowledge the client wanted.
Human beings are all different, but only in so many ways. Geiger’s transcripts proved it time and again. Since he had started this work, he had filled twenty-six black four-inch binders, which now sat lined up on his desk. He could cross-reference the data in the notebooks by profession, age, religion, net worth, and—most important—allegation. The binders were an encyclopedia of information on response and reaction to intimidation, threat, fear, and pain. But there was no data within the pages about death. Geiger had never had a Jones die in a session—not once in eleven years. As Carmine would say, Geiger was batting a thousand.
Geiger’s clients came from the private sector, the corporate world, organized crime, government. Four years ago, he’d even done a stint at a black site for some agency spooks. They believed their methods were cutting-edge, but Geiger had immediately seen that they were way behind the times; they were men pulling wings off flies while they talked of saving the world. In IR, there was no substitute for expertise. Patriotism, religion, a steely belief in what was right and wrong—these were all things to be set aside. In the end, there were lies and there was the truth, and the space between the two could be so thin that there was no room for the clutter of rectitude and conviction. The spooks at the black site had stood in the shadows observing him as he worked; to Geiger, they’d looked like cavemen watching him light a fire with a Zippo.
He was a student of the craft, and a historian. Just as the black binders contained the sum of his own work, he was a living text of the trade—its origins, rationales, methodologies, and evolution. He knew that man had been using torture without apology since at least 1252, when Pope Innocent the Fourth authorized its use to deal with heretics. Since that official sanction, immeasurable time and effort had gone into creating and perfecting methods for inflicting pain in the pursuit of what a person or group considered indispensable information or truth. The practice had no cultural, geographic, or ethnic bias. History proved that if you had rudimentary tools—hammer, saw, rasp—and basic materials—wood, iron, rope, fire—you needed little more. Add even the simplest understanding of physics and construction and you were in business.
Geiger had begun his education by studying the instincts and foundational choices of the pioneers. Certain methods and techniques were especially effective, including:
Sharpened objects. The Judas Chair proved so successful during the Inquisition that most European countries began customizing their own versions. Culla di Giuda, Judaswiege—by any name, it was a pyramid-shaped seat upon which the Jones, raised by ropes, was perched.
Encasement and pressure. The Iron Maiden, an upright sarcophagus, was fitted with interior spikes and apertures for the insertion of various sharp or pronged objects during an interrogation. It was also, to a degree, the ancestor of the sensory deprivation process. The buskin, Spanish Boot, and Malay Foot Press all used shrinkage and manipulation to break feet; the thumbscrew was limited to single digits, but an interrogator who carried one in his pocket could turn any place into a torture chamber.
Manacling and stretching. The rack was a technological advance, with its employment of rollers, gears, and handles, allowing one the ability to quickly increase or reduce physical pain by minute degrees.
Waterboarding was another brainchild of the Inquisition’s interrogators. They understood that whereas submerging a Jones in water might prove effective over time, waterboarding triggered the gag reflex almost instantaneously, heightening the fear of death.
Intense heat had always been a staple of the torturer’s trade—consider the phrase “putting one’s feet to the fire”—as had the ripping and flaying of flesh. Also useful was a wide array of tools, from the simple—such as pliers for denailing—to the complex—such as the Pear, a hinged and often exquisitely etched steel tool inserted into the vagina or anus and slowly expanded by means of a screw handle. The catalog of tools was extensive: the Wheel, the Cat’s Paw, the Head Crusher, the Crocodile Tube, the Picquet, the Strappado. All these and more had been invented before the Industrial Revolution, and Geiger had come to understand that the practice of torture was not an aberration. In the cause of expedience and the quest for information, man has always been willing to trump his laws and betray his beliefs to legitimize the torture of those who do not share them.
After much study and consideration, Geiger had devised a standard operating procedure. He worked only by referral. If a company or individual was in need of his services, they were directed to his websit...

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