Take James D. MacDonald's The Apocalypse Door for example. There's a simple formula here: set a secret agent Knight Templar against a bunch of inter-dimensional mushrooms (that just may really be from Hell), throw in "the fun nun with the gun", stick them all in Newark NJ, and you've got a story that mixes the TV-friendly spy thriller stylings of Alias with the Rennes-Le-Chateau musings of The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail and a teensy pinch of Lovecraftian horror. It's a melange that shouldn't really work, but MacDonald approaches it with a panache and flair that makes this book one of the most enjoyable fantasy thrillers around.
To paraphrase Raymond Chandler: "Down these mean streets a warrior monk must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished or afraid..."
Peter Crossman is that monk, assigned to mentor a new recruit into the ranks of the thirty and three, the inner circle of the Knights Templar. The Knight's are the Church's last line of defence against the darkness that is forever trying to engulf the world. When a UN peacekeeping team disappears in Lebanon, the resulting chain of events sends Crossman to a warehouse in Newark - where things aren't quite what they seem. Something big is happening, really big, and when a third of the heavens turn to blood, Crossman knows that more than a few missing men are at stake. The Apocalypse Door is swinging open and it's up to him to make sure that it stays closed. And what's the link with Crossman's past as a CIA agent?
A fun, edge of the seat read. Cinematic in scope, the constant action pulls you through the story. Sure, there's not much characterisation - or for that matter, character development - but that's not really the point here. MacDonald is spinning a good old fashioned adventure yarn, just cloaking it in the trappings of SF, horror and fantasy. It's a return match for Crossman, who originally appeared in short stories written for various themed short story collections.
The Apocalypse Door is pulp fiction in its purest form, ideal for blotting out that interminable commute or a chunk of that long plane journey. Just don't expect a long read - the print is large, and it's only 254 pages - and expect to be left waiting for the next book in the obvious series!