PERFECT PROPHET by Diane M. Johnson is a religious-themed horror thriller that revolves around Alec, the guitarist in a struggling death metal band. When a fan shoots him in the chest during a performance, the scene goes viral online, especially when he survives the certainly fatal wound with little more than a scar and some anxiety.
The trauma, confusingly miraculous recovery, and overnight celebrity combine to take the spiritual “legs” from under Alec and he begins to examine his beliefs. We learn about the three other members of the band in varying levels of detail. We also follow Alec from California, back to his hometown in the Midwest, where we meet his former girlfriend and the son he didn’t know about. We also learn that Alec has an abusive, and possibly insane father, and a sister still living in the small town.
An alternating storyline follows a young boy. Mysteriously, but purposefully handicapped as an infant, abandoned, and grown into an evil child, this character is adopted by a sinister older man of means and groomed to be Alec’s foil.
The writing style and flow of the story is strong and competent. Despite numerous shifts in venue and point of view, it is always easy to follow the plot. Character development is only moderately successful. Alec is acceptably complex, but mostly unlikable. The rest of the cast for the most part feel like props.
The author is much more successful in building tension, delivering strong conflict points, and keeping the narrative lively. She also does a good job of keeping the religious aspect mostly non-denominational and generic. That approach should work to avoid offending many readers, but it also lessens the power of the conflict. Evil is strongly (if somewhat over-broadly) depicted as Satanism, but good is left mostly as a pale non-satanic state. The cursory examination of faith in the book is echoed by the treatment of the musical genre that Alec and his mates are a part of. Alternately described as death metal, satanic, and anarchist (did she mean anti-Christ?) the band becomes a huge success, but other than being told that, we don’t really “see” what that means. Some lyrics or discussion of the music might help.
PERFECT PROPHET features a strong plot, with multiple twists and turns, and will appeal to fans of straight-edge God vs. simplistic Satanic cult stories.
~J.V. Bolkan for IndieReader