The Prophet. Book Review

TheProphetTHE PROPHET by Ethan Cross

Arrow, p/b, 544pp, £6.99

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

There is a special unit of the Justice Department that isn’t much bothered with protocol, but hunts down and usually kills America’s most dangerous serial killers.  Their best agent is the tortured and dangerously unstable Marcus Williams, whose past is gradually revealed during the novel.  He has an unsatisfactory romance with fellow agent Maggie Carlisle and uneasy relationships with other colleagues.  And the worst serial killer of all, Francis Ackerman, likes to phone Marcus with helpful snippets of information that he’s obtained while torturing and killing people.

There are so many things wrong with this book that I’m not sure where to begin – there were times when I almost threw it out the train window.  The worst sin is the overwriting.  Cross can write a fine sentence, but he likes to add another explaining what he meant, or telling us how we should feel about it.  He also likes to end a paragraph with a superfluous sentence summarising what he’s just said in case we weren’t paying attention.  A professional editor could have gone trough the manuscript with a red pen, cut about 100 pages and made it a much better novel.

Some of the science was wrong, and I had some moral and philosophical problems with the book that I won’t go into.

That said, there times when I got caught up in the plot and enjoyed the ride.  It’s plot-driven, fast-paced, very violent and generally has characters that don’t infuriate too much.  Cross obviously enjoys what he does and his research is on the page.

If you enjoy the conventions of the contemporary crime thriller and are willing to switch off your higher brain functions for a while, you will have a great time with this book.