In 2012, Gil Valle, then working for the New York City Police Department, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to kidnap, rape, murder, and cannibalize women because of online roleplays that he’d participated in. This earned Valle the title of “Cannibal Cop” by the tabloid media. He was acquitted when it was proven that his roleplays were pure fantasy with no real intent behind them. After writing a memoir about his experiences, he decided to parlay his reputation into becoming a horror author. His first novel was A Gathering of Evil, co-written with Brian Whitney. The Social Catalogue of #Prey, co-written with Bridget Lee, is its sequel.
“’Do you ever wonder if what we did last summer, I don’t know, inspired others?’ Bruce asked his wife, as he sat at the end of the bed waiting for her to finish getting ready.
‘I mean, so many people have bought the video,’ he added.”
It’s been a year since Bruce and Marilyn kidnapped, murdered, and cannibalized two New York City women. The video they made of one of the murders has become very popular among a small subset of people with particularly sadistic sexual tastes. It’s also caught the attention of a European human trafficker who partners with them to kidnap another woman, knowing his clients will pay top dollar for a beautiful young American sex slave. Bruce and Marilyn set their sights on social media addicted college student Taylor Spring and, for their own purposes, a single mother named Shannon Flanagan.
While it does work as its own stand-alone book, The Social Catalogue of #Prey is still very much a continuation of A Gathering of Evil’s story. We see the fall out from the murder of Sarah McConnell and Jennifer Miller from the first book, their grieving families, the popularity of Jennifer’s snuff film, and the fans of the film deciding to act out their own violent fantasies in reality.
This is where Valle success the most as a horror author. The victims of the stories are not just bodies set up to be knocked down. They are fully fleshed-out characters who feel like real people. Even the victims of the prior book hang over this one, making their deaths feel like they had a real impact.
Taylor Springer is an especially well-crafted characters. As a young girl obsessed with social media, lesser authors would have simply made her a shallow “Instagram thot” stereotype. While she is vain and vapid in many ways, she still feels like a real person with many likable aspects to her. The book brings us closer and closer to her before the story takes a turn and does horrible, horrible things to her.
I mean it when I say “horrible.” The violence in this book is incredibly graphic and disturbing. Especially because it’s happening to such likable characters. In some parts of the end, I found myself angry and disgusted with what was happening. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, nothing shows a horror book succeeding more than when it actually horrifies you. This certainly isn’t a book for the faint of heart, though if you’ve read the first, you’ll have a good idea what you’re in for.
This is a spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want that. The biggest flaw with the book is that the kidnappings go off practically without a hitch. Because of this, much of the suspense feels wasted. This was a problem with the first book as well. However, there is a hint at the end that Bruce and Marilyn’s operation isn’t sustainable and it made me very interested in seeing where the next installment goes.
The book makes some commentary on how social media affects our lives and how little we seem to value our privacy in the 21st century. However, the commentary on how social media makes people easy targets for predators is a little too “after school special.” Thankfully, it’s never overbearing or preachy. Though maybe you really don’t need to “check in” and take pictures of every single place you go out to.
The Social Catalogue of #Prey is an excellent addition to the genre of extreme horror. It builds very realistic and well-rounded characters, something the genre often lacks, while still telling an intense and horrifying story. It builds on Gil Valle's first book while keeping all of its strengths, though also a few of its flaws. Valle has proven himself a very capable author of horror fiction.Review copy provided