Where has the summer gone? One thing’s for sure, I certainly didn’t spend much of it reading. I’m sad to report, I’ve only read (well, “am reading”, in the one case) three books.
That’s THREE books. All summer!
I’m not sure what happened. It was a strange summer, weather-wise. Hot hot days, but interspersed with lots of rainy gloomy days. My ten year old was in a variety of camps, so there was all the running around associated with getting him there and picking him up. Earlier in August, I finally launched my freelance writing business, and a lot of time has been taken up with working on a “web presence” (ie a company website) and landing clients (so far I have one and an interview on Tuesday for a potentially large client – hurray!).
The good news is, all the books (all three of them – ahem) that I picked up this summer have been great reads. My first book of the summer?
The Diabolist, by Layton Green.
I mentioned earlier this year that Dan Brown’s Inferno was a DNF for me, despite the very exciting storyline and the fast-paced narrative. There was just something missing from the book, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but so important that its absence made it easy for me to close the novel halfway to the finish mark, and not feel any inclination to open it up again. Now that I’ve read Layton Green’s The Diabolist, I think I know what that missing ingredient was: characters that I could care about. That’s definitely something Green gives the reader in The Diabolist.
The Diabolist is a fast-paced occult thriller, well-written and well-researched, with the research presented perfectly within the confines of the story, never making you feel like you were reading pieces of non-fiction stuck here and there throughout the tale.
Viktor Radek is a religious phenomenologist specializing in cults, and his investigative partner Dominic Grey is skilled in killing, a Jujitsu expert with an uncompromising personal ethos. Someone is murdering the leaders of Satanic cults around the world – killing them in bizarre, magical-seeming ways – and it appears that the charismatic leader of an increasingly popular New Age religion might be involved. As Viktor and Dominic pursue the tangle of leads – separately, because there are so many avenues to follow – I was drawn into a number of exotic locales around the world.
If you’re a squeamish kind of reader, which I am, you should know there are some particularly gruesome scenes concerning certain Satanic rituals, as well as the rather violent fights Dominic gets into; I just skimmed through those scenes and the skimming didn’t have an impact on my enjoyment of the story.
The most spine-tingling scene in the book for me was the one in which Viktor, busily tracking down the Tutori, a group commissioned by the Vatican back in the Middle Ages to extinguish heresies, finds himself and his guide pursued through the streets of York in the dead of night. No violence or gore, other than the continuing threat of violence, this scene really had my heart racing.
The only quibble I have with the book – well, with the actual series, I guess, since The Diabolist is the third in the series (and you can definitely read it as a standalone without any negative effects, as I did) – is that the series is labelled “The Dominic Grey series” but when it comes down to it, it was Viktor who stole the story for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with Dominic, but I’ve read many thrillers with protagonists who could be Dominic’s brother or father. Viktor, though – such a complex, complicated character. Which he should be. After all, he does explore the many shades of good and evil as part of his routine everyday.
“What is evil? How does the term evil apply not just to one particular act but to the larger ethos of the worshipper? From where does the idea of evil derive in that belief system? Is it merely illusory? How does the adherent reconcile the existence of evil, if applicable, to the belief in an omnipotent God?” Viktor folded his arms. “Perhaps the hardest lesson of all is to realize that you, as the dutiful scholar, might have learned nothing about the true nature of good and evil. And that for each investigation you must clear your mind and start anew.”
So in my mind, the series should really be “The Viktor Radek series”. Or perhaps, “The Viktor Radek and Dominic Grey series”.
The Diabolist is a well-written thriller about Satanic cults that’s a definite page-turner. Not necessarily for the faint of heart (I certainly couldn’t have listened to this one in audio, given the limited skimming capabilities of the spoken word), but as I said, those scenes are easy enough to skim through without disrupting your read. Recommended if you’re looking for a page-turning thriller with engaging characters.
Coming up here later this week (hopefully)? My other summer reads: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (which I’m still in the middle of reading). See what I mean about having read some good books this summer (slight though my reading pile was)?