The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey
People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.
Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow is in charge of an investigation into a serial killer called The Oracle who turns his victims into macabre works of art. But Prosper harbours a dark secret of his own. He and his old school friends were members of a group called The Kult, who made a pact to dish out their own form of vengeance on bullies. Now a member of the group puts their friendship to the test when he makes a far darker request: that they murder someone that raped his wife.
To get away with murder, the friends decide to blame it on The Oracle, but events take a chilling turn when the instigator turns up dead, his body fashioned into a disturbing work of art. Now, one by one, the members of The Kult are being hunted down.
Just when Prosper thinks things can’t get any worse, his wife is kidnapped and he knows that if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks his dark deeds being unearthed. If he doesn’t, he risks losing all that he holds dear.
I’m a great believer that the best, most startling horror needs to be as realistic as possible. Though I admit a soft spot for vampires, zombies and werewolves I find that horror which is grounded in the real world tends to pack more of an emotional punch. The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey is a superior example of this. It has a simple premise, a serial killer on the loose, that is made all the more horrific by the fact that this story could unfold anywhere and could happen to anyone.
The Oracle is a really nasty piece of work, he is driven by anger and hatred. His single-mindedness makes him a very efficient and devious killer. His crimes are horrific and the author doesn’t sugar coat anything when he describes them in vivid, bloody detail. The victims he chooses are selected from the most vulnerable sections of society. He wants people to hate and fear him and tries to generate the most public outrage he can. Here the reader is presented with a character that is utterly vile.
Snow, on the other hand, is written as a character that is very much in conflict with his life. The pact he made with the other members of The Kult may have seemed like a good idea when they were all teens, but as a grown man it flies in the face of his duty is a police officer. His loyalties are divided between his friends and his work. I liked the fact that as the story progresses there is an increasingly desperate sense to all of Snow’s actions as he tries to capture the killer without implicating himself.
In addition to the Oracle’s killings, there is the second narrative strand that details the Kult’s attempt to arrange a perfect murder of their own. Both stories are enjoyable to read but the plot really excels when these two strands are brought together. Just how far are Snow and his friends willing to go in order to help one another? The Kult works best when it is pushing these dark moral boundaries.
There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and I was pleased that the outcome didn’t feel in any way predictable. Add in a healthy dose of character paranoia, and satisfyingly climactic conclusion, and you get a novel that is well worth your time.