Religion has always been a widely debated topic. Ever since man developed a brain large enough to think, we have been searching for meaning to our own existence. Some of us turn to expanding mankind’s collective knowledge of the universe, while others devote ourselves to God in the hope of improving their own lives. However, some men have nefarious desires. All of these collective themes are touched upon in A.S Coomer’s The Devil’s Gospel.
The story follows Dr. Kevin Ballard, a professor of Biology at the University of Kentucky. He is studying a rare plant when his life suddenly goes through a violent series of events, soon learning that the leaves of the plant are used in local rituals. With his mother dead and research assistant/girlfriend kidnapped, Kevin strives to find out why these events are happening as the police start to investigate him, believing him to be responsible for the string of crimes.
Published by The Wild Rose Press, A.S. Coomer’s thriller novel isn’t written in any particular style but penned in a straightforward manner. It’s also a fairly quick read, lasting just over 200 pages. When reading the first few chapters, the plot jumps between the present and past, which can be confusing at points, and while the first and last third of the book are arguably what makes the book work, the middle is a bit slow in comparison.
The Devil’s Gospel does deal with themes of religion, and there are moments when the reader can’t tell if it’s supernatural or real. Many of the other characters’ religious views come into conflict with Kevin’s scientific mind, which is always an interesting angle to go with. The antagonist is also a great character to look at, mostly due to his ambiguity. Is he really the devil in disguise or is he just a clever, albeit unhinged, cult leader? Can he actually read the leaves of the plant to prophesize the future? He does have knowledge which leaves other characters questioning how he could have found some of his information.
It does have some weaknesses, though. In particular, the character of Kinders, who eventually helps Kevin when his girlfriend goes missing. It’s clear that Coomer is going for the angle of an ally in the most unlikely of places, but on the other hand, this character could have been easily interchangeable with a more friendly character, as the antagonism they share when their relationship is first introduced doesn’t really do anything to change the plot.
Additionally, it seems unusual that Kinders would go out of his way to help Kevin, even if he felt sympathy to his plight. Also, there is a murder that occurs within the first couple of chapters that isn’t really addressed again. Perhaps if the boyfriend of the victim truly believed Kevin was responsible for her murder and continued to hunt him throughout the book, it would make for an intriguing subplot. The ending is also left very open-ended, which is equal parts a point for discussion and confusing.
Review copy provided
A good, questionably supernatural thriller with an interesting plot around religious fanaticism but can be confusing at points.