The Scarlet Gospels (2015) – Clive Barker

 

I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard Barker was working on it. I’m a fan, and I couldn’t wait to see what happens when two of his most iconic creations meet in what he promised would be the final tale of the Cenobite known universally as Pinhead.

But the Hell Priest isn’t the only familiar character Barker brings to play in this tale. Harry D’Amour, private investigator, who is constantly drawn to the darkness and the demonic is at the center of this story as well.

In fact, this novel gives us a dearth of information on Harry, expanding the character, who, though popular, has never really had a lot of individual tales centered around him.

Haunted by the literal demons of his past, he digs into a case in New Orleans, brought to him by a spirit who visited one of his mentors, the blind Norma. Though she is bereft of eyesight, she can see the dead, and the ghosts are everywhere asking for help.

In an attempt to help one of them, D’Amour learns he is set up, as he comes across a familiar cube, commonly known as a Lament Configuration, and the Hell Priest, who hates being referred to as Pinhead, or any variation of it is called forth. Just as he had planned.

It seems Pinhead has a huge plan at work, one that could change everything, and he wants D’Amour to serve as his witness, to catalog it. Harry, though he’s danced in the darkness more times than he cares to admit, and is drawn to it even more so, refuses in the most clear of statements.

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But the Hell Priest won’t be so easily dissuaded, and grabs Norma, taking her with him. Harry, and a small group of friends, must literally go into Hell to save the blind woman, and maybe find a way to stop Pinhead from executing his plan, which is terrifying in scope.

Barker tells the Hell Priest’s final story in a way that I didn’t even expect. I simply knew going into it that the book would feature both Harry and the most infamous of Cenobites. I had no idea where he would take the story, to say nothing of how it would play out.

And Barker does not disappoint.

Unnerving, frightening, and on more than one occasion, very troubling, Harry and his friends are put through the wringer as they travel the vast landscapes of Hell and encounter its plethora of denizens. Barker creates a real place, giving it a sense of history and geography, as the Hell Priest continues towards his final goal, the throne and power of Lucifer, himself.

This was a great read, and while Pinhead is central to the story, most of it feels like Harry’s book, and I loved spending the time with him, as he’s a character I really enjoy.

As I finished it, I found myself wondering how things would play out for characters after the last words were read, and I’ll eagerly await Barker’s next book.

Clive Barker

 

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