Written by: John Matsui
Catholic priest John Wilburn is spending his 50th year filling in for a colleague at an upstate New York church. His day takes a worrying turn when a troubled young man enters the confessional booth.
The man is haunted by visions of him torturing and killing people at a college campus.
Before Father Wilburn can organize his thoughts, the temperature plunges. His breath fogs the air. The young man’s voice and demeanor change. He’s no longer pleading for help but relishes the coming carnage.
As suddenly as it began, the man leaves the confessional. The priest is quick out of the booth, hoping to help the young man. He’s gone, vanished at preternatural speed.
Karen Innis, a new 911 operator, takes a call. In a sinister hiss, the caller reports a murder. He then describes the scene in detail and triumphantly admits he is the killer.
Karen is silenced by the tale of horror as the caller gloats. “I’ve never seen so much blood.”
What the caller says next chills Karen to the bone. “Too bad you can’t see it Karen.”
He called her by name. As a 911 operator, no one should or could know who she is. The caller disconnects but Karen traces the call to a local college, Hyde Hall.
Three detectives go to the address Karen supplies. Devin Alexander, Louisa Delrosa and Lawrence Abrams find a male student horribly murdered and mutilated. His eyes are gouged out, thumbs and fingers cut off, and his face has been peeled away.
The murder is the start of a series of bizarre and equally disturbing mutilations and homicides of Hyde Hall students.
The hunt for the murderer is on. When the detectives chase the evidence, they’re stunned when they conclude murder victim number two is none other than the murderer of victim number one.
The pattern continues with each succeeding murderer lining up as the next homicide victim.
I have very mixed feelings about Catalyst of Evil by David Blackthorn. If you read into my description of the novel’s beginning, Blackthorn grabbed me from the start.
I loved the premise and the dark twists. For the first third of the book I had the clear sense I was descending into a tale of dark foreboding worthy of the pen of a young Stephen King. Despite some terrible misspellings and instances crying out for professional editing, I gobbled up the prose.
Then the spelling and loose writing got worse and worse and worse.
The parts describing the murders that should have locked me in terror began to bother me because of repetitious choice of words and scenes that lost impact because the author over explained everything.
I wanted the story to take me into its nightmare but the sentence structure and slow delivery kept slapping me awake.
As the murder toll mounted, so did the story’s problems.
Is there such a thing as too many murders? Yep. I began to yawn as the next victim got sliced to bits.
As the murders rose, so too did the cast of protagonists. The three detectives (one too many) are joined by Father Wilburn who it turns out knows demons and has some skill as an exorcist. Okay, I can buy that.
Then the cast of characters goes crazy.
There’s Karen, the 911 operator who is suddenly on the endangered species list and has a sort of romantic thing happening with Devin, detective #1.
Heidi Barrett, a medium, can link with devilish forces and provides the team with insight. Harvey Kline, a police tech, fleshes out the team some more. Think whacky nerd computer genius from CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, etc. etc. etc.
During the height of the killing field, we are introduced to the private lives of the college’s security guards.
We’ve got too many characters to care about. If some of them get whacked, who cares?
All of this comes together at the end in a mushy mess that is sort of resolved in an unsatisfying way.
My apologies but the best I can give Catalyst of Evil in its current state is three stars. With a hard rewrite and the services of a top professional editor, Catalyst of Evil could join the top rank of horror novels.