For this third book in The Dominic Grey Series and his first with the Thomas & Mercer imprint, Layton Green kicks things up a notch and delivers a novel that should, if there's any justice to be found upon the shelves, make him a household name. The Diabolist is a dark, intelligent, spellbinding novel that is destined to appeal to readers of Preston & Child, David Gibbins, and Dan Brown . . . as well as the likes of Peter Straub, John Saul, and James Herbert.
This is a novel about two things - the nature of belief, and the dichotomy of good versus evil. Yes, it's a rip-roaring, pulse-pounding adventure, but it's also an intelligent, deeply philosophical look at the concept of evil, and how it's defined (or justified) within the bounds of faith and belief. It all begins with the mysterious deaths of two prominent religious figures, one of the House of Lucifer and the other of the Church of the Beast, both condemned as heretics. I won't attempt to summarize the details that Layton provides in the course of the novel, but it turns out the public perception of a 'Satanist' is just as troubled and diverse as that of a 'Christian' faith.
At the same time, a charismatic leader by the name of Simon Azar has begun making a name for himself, amassing over a million followers for his Order of New Enlightenment. It's a very attractive, very seductive sort of humanist religion, one that celebrates the natural enjoyment of life in all its forms, all without guilt or shame. It's an intelligent form of belief, and one that's easy to see the appeal of, but there's something suspicious at its heart.
Enter our heroes, Dominic Grey and Viktor Radek, working on behalf of Interpol to solve the murders and prevent the death of more . . . including the Pope.
Readers who are already familiar with the series will appreciate the opportunity to delve into Viktor's surprisingly dark past, to learn what made him into the expert on cults and religious phenomenologist he is today. There's a very good reason he so often loses himself to the oblivion of Absinthe, and an equally good reason he is so good at what he does. New readers need not fear, for Dominic's past is recapped nicely in bits and pieces throughout the book, providing them with enough of an introduction to enjoy the story.
The incredible action sequences of the first two books, with Dominic's unique brand of hand-to-hand combat have been perfected here, providing more than a few heart-stopping moments of action and drama. The blood and the gore are here again as well in all their lurid detail, but necessary to the plot, and never used for mere effect. The drama and the suspense are at an all-time high for the series as well, particularly once Viktor receives one of the mysterious letters promising his own death.
Like the first two books of the series, Green deftly balances faith, belief, science, and reason throughout the tale. The question of the supernatural is just that - a question - one that is wisely left somewhat opened ended, with just enough room for readers to believe there's more to life than Viktor and Dominic can explain. It's not a cop-out or a soft ending by any stretch of the imagination. This is an intelligent read that rewards, rather than dismisses, our intelligence in tying up the loose ends. It's just that Green is smart enough to leave a few unanswered questions, a few events that we are free to either believe haven't been explained yet, or simply cannot be explained.
I cannot recommend this one highly enough. If you're new to the series, dive in and enjoy a read that will stimulate all your senses. You'll feel smarter for having read it, I guarantee, but you'll also enjoy every moment.