Drawn to the premise of this novel by Lincoln Cole, I could not wait to see if it was as chilling as the blurb made it appear to be. In the town of Everett, Washington, something is going on. The priest of St. Joseph’s Cathedral is certain that one of his parishioners is under the influence of something demonic. However, the bishop is not convinced and shuts down any further exploration. Not satisfied, a call is made directly to the Vatican, who send Father Niccolo Paladina to see what might be taking place in this bucolic community in America’s Pacific Northwest. A trained exorcist, Father Paladina speaks to all parties involved and chastises the local priest for leaping overtop of his bishop, as well as trying to create something out of nothing. Father Paladina is not convinced that this is anything other than some mental health concerns with the elderly woman in question. During a more formal a detailed discussion with the aforementioned parishioner, Father Paladina senses something off about the house, which is only further exacerbated when he hears something calling him in a mocking tone. Could there be more to this than meets the eye? When others around Everett begin exhibiting odd behaviours, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his first suppositions might have been wrong. Father Paladina soon comes face to face with a man blacklisted by the Vatican for his outlandish claims, one Arthur Vangeest. While Arthur claims that his entire family was murdered by a cult, perhaps possessed themselves, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if this is all a rouse by a man whose conscience is full of guilt. The reader soon learns that Arthur Vangeest is known as a Hunter, a soldier for the Council of Chaldea, an organization that works at arm’s-length from the Vatican. The Council is tasked with investigating supernatural events around the world without pulling the Church into the middle of them. With events in Everett becoming more troublesome, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his expertise in exorcisms might prove useful and whether there is a larger secret yet to be revealed. A unique story that takes many a turn, going from intensely captivating to tepid and back in short order. Those who enjoy something a little different might enjoy this piece. The jury is still out for me.
I was completely sold by Cole’s premise as the story began, finding myself curious about the premise of the exorcism in a small town. The collection of characters proved to be engaging, particularly Father Paladina. This well-established priest presents not only as a professional, but also one who follows the rules and hierarchy as they are laid out for him. He chooses to lecture those who stray from the well-defined rules and will not abide ignorance. However, while he seems to know his job well, Paladina is highly sceptical of the demonic presence in the world, thereby making his role more obsolete. Cole develops him well, though the character takes a nosedive halfway through the novel, with the introduction of the Council. Many of the other characters in their supporting roles have some potential, but I found myself to lose interest and a connection to those who serve to propel the story forward at this point. It was as though there was such potential with the characters and the premise of the Council, but it was lost in some tepid narrative and plot delivery. It was as though Cole needed a two-pronged plot to keep the story moving—at least to him—and it did not work for me. Surely, there is something useful to know about this Council, as this is a trilogy, but I could not, for the life of me, connect to it or its larger purpose. As these are short novels and I find myself between reading commitments, I will likely give the second book a try to see if I can win myself over, but I will not subject myself to something if I cannot latch on in short order. My reading life is too short to spend time on a book that does not make an impact.
Kudos, Mr. Cole for the interesting premise. We’ll see if you can resurrect things in the second piece!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons