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Book Review: The Scarlet Gospels

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NICOLE TRACY | Literary Columnist
Clive Barker has
brought back two of his
most iconic characters
to star in his latest novel,
The Scarlet Gospels. Fans
of both Barker’s characters
Pinhead, from the
story The Hellbound
Heart, as well as the
Hellraiser movies, and
Harry D’Amour, notably
of Everville, along with
several other Barker
novels, will most likely
enjoy the merging of the
two literary universes.
Pinhead has killed
all of earth’s best magicians
in an effort to
steal their knowledge
of magic.
He uses these powers
to stage a coup in
Hell, murdering the rulers
of the underworld
in an effort to gain an
audience with Lucifer
himself.
However, Pinhead’s
(referred to
mostly in this book
as Hell Priest) vanity
is too much for the
task and he decides
he needs a witness
to his plans.
To this end, he
kidnaps the best friend
of Harry D’Amour, private
investigator of all
things dark and supernatural.
Harry’s friend,
Norma, is a blind psychic
who acts as a go-between
for Harry whom
the dead often hire to
solve cases or carry out
physical tasks for them.
Harry, along with
friends Caz, Lana and
Dale, descend into Hell
in search of Norma.
Pinhead, meanwhile,
continues his quest to
the last known whereabouts
of the Prince of
Hell, only to find when
he arrives that Lucifer
has committed suicide
rather than live outside
the presence of God.
Well, that serves Pinhead
just fine as he is
perfectly content to don
the devil’s armor and
take over the running of
things himself.
The only problem is,
the resurrected Lucifer
doesn’t think that’s such
a good idea.
All Harry and his
friends can do is stand
by and watch.
Author Barker has
pulled out all the stops
and used every skill
in his arsenal to create
characters that feel
realistic despite their
otherworldly-ness, they
are deep, rich and expressive.
The story loses a bit
from being filled with
with dialogue that almost
feels forced. There
are many memorably
nightmarish set-pieces
and scenarios that help
to make up for the bad
dialogue, however.
The entire story feels
rushed, as if Barker had
a deadline and churned
it out as quickly as he
could. Important events
just whiz by, and what
should be momentous
scenes are resolved in a
page or less.
As per usual, Barker
doesn’t shy away from
gore and sexuality, so if
one is sensitive to either
topic, one should probably
avoid this story.
For fans of his previous
work however, this
will be a treat, even if
it seems like it is missing
a certain something
that made some of his
earlier books so special.
The scenes of Hell are
especially interesting,
and make this come
off somewhat like his
answer to “Dante’s Inferno”;
and the ending
is very satisfying and
suitably epic.
If one is a Clive Barker
fan, do not miss this
book. If one isn’t a fan of
horror novels, it is suggested
to skip this one.
The Scarlet Gospels
is available at the Howard
County Public Library.
Copies are limited,
so if it is unavailable,
ask at the front desk to
be put on a waiting list
for it.