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Perfect Prophet

by Diane M. Johnson

Rating: ****

After Alec Lowell, guitarist for death-metal band The Great, miraculously survives being shot on stage, he decides to take a hiatus and bond with his young son back in his hometown and to consider his beliefs and future. However, as he tries to make a fresh start, the band members and his past need him to confront some truths; truths and revelations that will question Alec’s very existence…

Perfect Prophet is a thoughtful, complex and engrossing novel by an author who really immerses both themselves and the reader in their narrative. Personally, the first half of the novel was the strongest. The beginning is confident, gripping and pulls the reader in different intriguing directions; all conflicting and well-realised. Different points of view are used; it was a clever touch to use Alec’s young son, Jake, to naively voice complex, emotional turmoil. The characters are quickly and skilfully rounded out so that you fully inhabit the story. I thought the early near overdose scene with Patrick was among some of the best writing describing such an incident; it was viscerally outstanding. I also liked the non-linear prose in the first half, it was thoughtfully worked, with the backstory woven into the immediacy and Belinda is a really good anchor throughout the novel. There is a twist, albeit one that is hinted at, approximately halfway. It does propel the narrative down an involving, sometimes rather tangled but still eminently readable supernatural rabbit hole. I especially liked the Groundskeeper; an assumed idiot savant crossed with a lodestar.

Alec is a dislikeable yet perplexing character. I think this was deliberate on the part of Ms Johnson and for the majority of the novel it works. It’s a clever tactic; as much as Alec is emotionally damaged and the reader wants to root for him, you have interest and sympathy in his nemesis; they are not an immediate bad guy because of Alec’s unpleasant personality. It makes you curious. Notwithstanding, I did begin to struggle with Alec’s character arc and his repelling personality; there comes a time when I wanted to, and needed to, feel all sympathy for him yet I could not and personally, I found his development a touch questionable towards the conclusion.

Yet, this novel is all engrossing and technically excellent. It just sometimes felt that every possible angle was being thrown into the plot and I think some elements could have been reined in to make a tighter construct.

Overall, an original, compelling and rewarding supernatural thriller – highly recommended. Buy from:

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