book review, horror, Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale Month: Gods of the Black Gate

Caleb Rogers, the detective who put serial killer Craig Smiley behind bars, can’t shake the idea that the gods the killer sacrificed to might actually exist.

Policemen, Caleb Rogers and Tom Marvin, thought deranged ex infantry serial killer, Craig Smiley, was locked away for good in the inescapable and inhospitable maximum security prison on Mars. But seven years after he is incarcerated, Smiley does the impossible. 

He escapes. 

Now Rogers and Marvin must hunt down the killer for a second time, before he continues his killing spree and maybe, just maybe, manages to open the Black Gate. 

Part thriller, part cosmic horror, all science fiction adventure, Gods of the Black Gate has a lot going for it. Set in the future where regular travel between Earth and Mars is undertaken by mining vessels and government ships, the worst of the worst are sent to rot in the low oxygen and low gravity of Facility Six. Craig Smiley is an interesting character. Ruthless, amoral and unlikable, it is impossible not to feel some sympathy for a man who has been chewed up and spat out by the military. It is obvious that he truly believes in the seven gods that lie beyond the Black Gate and, while that in no way exonerates his actions, it does provide him with his own twisted code of conduct. 

Caleb Rogers, part gumshoe, part Special Agent Pendergast, is the man who brought Smiley down, but not without great personal cost. He knows Smiley better than anyone, but his strict moral code has protected him from following the killer into insanity… or has it?

Caught up between the hunter and the hunted is Eleanor Cole, a pilot on Mars who is looking to make money and retire to Earth in comfort. She’s a great character, with a strong will to live and the wiles that just might keep her that way. 

I loved the mash up of genres in this book. The cat and mouse game between Caleb and Smiley is absorbing, and with Eleanor caught up in the middle, provides the much needed crisis that every serial killer story requires. When it comes to the chase, Gods of the Black Gate is up there with the best of them, reminiscent of the mind games of Hannibal Lector or the Copycat killer. 

Then there is the psychological aspect of the novel. Smiley is obviously deranged, but as we follow his actions, and learn what Caleb knows of the killer, we see that the former soldier is steadfast in his beliefs. 

The more you learn about the gods of the Black Gate, the more you hope that Smiley is as crazy as he seems. 

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It hit all the right notes for me. Great characters, great story, a complex layered plot that played with perception, mental illness and the spiritual side to life. The descriptions are vivid, and you have to keep reading to find out what happens next. 

I award Gods of the Black Gate

This review was originally posted on 2nd March 2020

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