Review: The Scarlet Gospels

Scarlet GospelsBy Clive Barker

Macmillan, Out May 21

The Hell Priest is back, ready to face his deadliest opponent yet!

The Scarlet Gospels marks the return of two of Barker’s most iconic characters: the Cenobite known (in film at least) as Pinhead, and Harry D’Amour, supernatural detective. The novel opens with the resurrection of a magician who’s already fallen prey to the Pope of Hell’s attentions, only to become his victim again along with those who brought him back, as the Cenobite seeks to expand his knowledge of the spells needed to secure more power.

Occult detective Harry D’Amour is aware that something’s wrong; the supernatural world is being riled up all around him, and the signs point to a great evil rising. Sent by his associate, blind medium Norma Paine, to fulfil the final wish of a recently deceased man and clear his house of anything incriminating, the detective finds a certain puzzlebox amongst the magical paraphernalia hidden there and inadvertently activates it. Harry manages to escape, but Pinhead is soon looking for him – he wants him to write his story, his Scarlet Gospels. And when D’Amour refuses, Pinhead kidnaps Norma instead, forcing D’Amour and a band of friends to descend into Hell itself to save her.

The author has said that The Scarlet Gospels is his last word on the subject of Pinhead; after almost thirty years, he’s chosen this novel to close the book on him, as it were – but he’s done this in style and with his trademark, inimitable, imagination. The novel shows Hell in all its glory as imagined by the author, detailed and vivid in its description, as Pinhead puts his plans in motion.

The Scarlet Gospels is epic in scale, as so much of Barker’s fiction is, yet the landscapes depicted and language used manage to remain poetic, and even intimate.

Verdict: D’Amour confronts the Priest of Hell in a nail-biting tale. 9/10

Marie O’Regan
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