Notes from underground

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Book Review: Prophecy, by Peter James

ProphecyProphecy by Peter James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I began reading this book, I didn’t like it much. Perhaps my initial dislike was just prejudice. One of the characters is a child called Edward, and I don’t think that is really a child’s name. Yes, as a child I knew other kids called Edward, but not many, and it makes me think of people like the late US senator Ted Kennedy.

I’ve also read books by Peter James before. He writes whodunits, featuring Detective Inspector Roy Grace of the Brighton police. But this wasn’t a whodunit, it was more like a supernatural horror story along the same lines as The turn of the screw by Henry James.

Well, I’ve come across such things before. Phil Rickman started off writing supernatural horror stories like Candlenight, but has gradually drifted into the whodunit genre, and his exorcist-in-chief, Merrily Watkins, has turned into an amateur detective in his more recent books. Peter James seems to keep his genres more separate than that, and his exorcist has nothing in common with Detective Inspector Roy Grace.

I liked the story more as it went along, and it had occasional resemblances to some of the “supernatural thrillers” of Charles Williams, particularly his War in heaven.

This is not the sort of book one can say too much about without spoilers that give away the plot. Francesca (Frannie) Monsanto is an archaeologist working at the British Museum, and a chance meeting leads to the possibility of romance with a widower, whose young son, Edward, seems to have unpredictable moods. But the chance meeting seems to be more than pure chance, and “coincidences” seem to keep happening, including unpleasant things happening to Frannie’s friends, until she thinks that there is a common thread linking them all.

I began the book not liking it much. A couple of the scenes seemed unnecessarily gruesome, and there are some plot holes, but in the end I thought it was a good read, and better than Peter James’s detective stories. Not quite Charles Williams, though.

Another interesting, though minor, point about this book is that it was not listed in Good Reads at all, and the ISBN had no matches on any of the linked sites, like Amazon UK, and so I had to enter it from scratch. Yet it has been around for quite a while, having been first published in 1992, and in the current edition in 1999, and reissued in 2006.

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