Killing people is The Oracle’s business, and business is good in author Shaun Jeffrey’s incredibly dark novel The Kult. The Oracle, you see, doesn’t just kill people; he tortures and mutilates them in horrifying ways, turning them, in his mind, into macabre works of art. Then he takes photographs of his creations, which he sends to the police.
Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow is in charge of The Oracle investigation. He’s also a member of the Kult, a small group of friends he’s known since his school days. Initially formed when they were just kids to help each other deal with bullies, the Kult stayed in contact over the years, occasionally calling on each other for assistance with increasingly “grown up” issues.
An email Snow receives from one of the members calling for a meeting leads to the group facing the most grown up issue possible: murder. At the meeting, Snow learns that the wife of one of his friends has been raped and not only does his friend intend to seek revenge, he expects his fellow Kult members to assist. He argues that the timing is perfect for them to kill his wife’s rapist, because if they do so in a sufficiently gruesome manner it will be blamed on The Oracle.
Though he’d always been there for the Kult in the past, Snow can’t agree to such extreme action. That is, not until his supposed friends inform him that if he doesn’t help, including supplying them with the inside information necessary to copy the unique m.o. of The Oracle, they will reveal to his superiors all the previous questionable activities in which Snow has participated. Caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, Snow caves and assists in the killing. And that is when things go from merely screwed up to genuinely life threatening, because following their attempt to frame The Oracle for the murder they commit the Kult members begin getting knocked off themselves.
In The Oracle Jeffrey has conjured up one of the nastiest, most perversely creative serial killers in recent memory, which makes it all the more impressive that Jeffrey did not make his protagonist an über-Detective. Quite the contrary, Snow spends most of the story frustrated, one step behind, and continuously making extremely questionable decisions based on emotion rather than logic… which makes him a believable and sympathetic lead.
The tension and stakes rise to almost stifling levels as Snow races to discover The Oracle’s identity before he finds himself in the crosshairs, setting the stage for a truly disturbing showdown in The Oracle’s decidedly creepy lair. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart, The Kult is a gripping read that’s part horror, part mystery, part police procedural, and completely in-your-face.