by Shaun Jeffrey
Cover Artist: Daniele Serra
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Leucrota Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780980033984
Date: 01 July 2009 List Price $9.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow was once an overweight, little boy who was stabbed by a bully, Gary Smith. His misfit friends (Paris Gray, Ty Westwood, Wolfe Weaver, and Jerel Jones) formed a secret club, the Kult, and vowed to beat up anyone who harmed a member. Together, they avenged Prosper's stabbing.
Now Prosper is thirty-six years old and is investigating the heinous murders committed by the Oracle. His friends in the Kult convince him to kill a notorious thug, Mack Taylor (a.k.a. the Hatchet Man), who raped Jerel's wife. With numerous misgivings, Prosper helps them commit the act and arrange the corpse so that it looks as though the Hatchet Man was another victim of the Oracle.
The Kult believes they have successfully framed the Oracle. Soon they are plunged into a nightmare when the Oracle begins viciously killing them. In a final act of vengeance, the Oracle abducts Prosper's handicapped wife, Natasha. Prosper races against time to identify the Oracle before he kills her. Meanwhile, Prosper must avoid his beautiful workaholic partner, Constable Jill Jones, who suspects him of being the Oracle.
Shaun Jeffrey's The Kult is a superb mystery that will shock and horrify you. It contains scenes of graphic violence that are quite disturbing. It is definitely not for the squeamish. My stomach churned with disgust when I read how the Oracle used an acetylene blowtorch to “melt” the limbs of his first victim, Jane Numan, a disfigured waitress. The Oracle likes to carefully choose his victims. He likes them innocent and helpless - victims who will provoke public outcry and have the media referring to him as a monster.
The characterization in The Kult is excellent. The Oracle is one of the most intelligent, vicious, cruel villains I have ever read. Burning with anger, he is obsessed with vengeance. He taunts the authorities with lurid photographs of his victims who have been artistically posed in perverse, macabre scenes; these photographs are designed to shock and horrify those who see them. With their cryptic titles, they also provide clues but no one is able to decipher them until it is too late.
Initially, I had difficulty liking Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow because he murdered someone. However, he seems to represent everyone who has ever allowed friends and relatives to tempt them into doing something amoral and/or criminal. After having helped abduct and murder the Hatchet Man, Prosper is consumed with guilt. His wife Natasha and his partner Jill sense his abrupt change in personality. Basically, Prosper is a good person; in the end, he tries very hard to redeem himself. Personally, I would like to think that I wouldn't allow my friends to force me to commit the ultimate sin of murder. Furthermore, true friends don't tempt their friends to commit murder.
This novel has a pall of gloom and doom hanging over it. Most of the action occurs in a secluded, derelict warehouse. Looking like a haunted mansion, it has numerous floors and an underground basement with a labyrinth of tunnels leading to a river that runs behind it. The Oracle keeps the decaying, maggot infested corpses of his victims on display in one of the uppermost floors. A putrid stench saturates the air. It is a virtual museum of horrors.
The Kult has a lot of mystery, suspense and horror. Be forewarned, the reader must wade through an abundance of blood and gore. However, this shouldn't deter anyone from reading it. The mystery is awesome. The Kult is very provocative. I found myself asking, "What would I do if I was in Prosper's situation?" The sins of his past have definitely come back to haunt him as he faces a vindictive killer who will butcher the innocent in order to harm the errant detective. I was reminded of The Bone Collector, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The graphic, tortuous violence and gore also reminded me of the hit series Saw. The Kult has plenty of red herrings which were reminiscent of the mystery novels written by Agatha Christie.
It is no wonder that Gharial Productions has bought the film rights for The Kult. I can't wait to see it on the big screen. Shaun Jeffrey's latest novel Deadfall - mercenary soldiers and eco-warriors battle zombies - will be published by Leucrota Press on March 25, 2010. It will probably be more gruesome and bloody than the The Kult. His previous novel Evilution - a conspiratorial horror novel involving the small, secluded village of Paradise - was published by Invisible College Press, LLC. Jeffrey is also hard at work on a sequel to The Kult.