After a reunion of sorts at one of the survivor’s funeral, the last four people left alive in a cult’s aftermath ponder the 15-year anniversary. All have been dealing with the post-traumatic stress of their experiences in direct ways. Deacon is developing a concept album with his punk band. Beth is a psychologist who is as much trying to heal herself as heal her clients. Andrea is a policewoman who at time uses the job to release her pent up frustrations. And David is an exit counselor reasoning with cultists to return to their homes and families.
Told in three periods, The Children of Red Peak is a book that I struggled with because of its awkward pacing and lack of focus at times. The novel jumps from the high time of the cult, a time of religious fervor at the beginning of their great experiment in the early 2000s. And then a couple years later when an awakening has occurred and the preacher, Jeremiah Peale, sees an opportunity for spiritual bliss in mass suicide. Thus the mystery: after the deaths of the dozens and dozens of cult members, there are no remains to be found… where did they go? And in 2020 when the last remaining members of the Family of the Living Spirit share their lasting trauma, conflicts, and in some places pent up passion.
This is my third DiLouie novel (One of Us and Our War) and this book was in stark contrast to those two. I found this book to be more of a series of character studies and not the driving horror mystery I expected to find. Granted these are interesting characters who draw you in with their internal strife, but I wanted more from this on in regards to plot… (minor spoiler) and the promise of ‘supernatural’ elements came way to late for it to really be a factor. Or there was some indication of this theme in the beginning but it never hit hard enough to make a real impact on the overall atmosphere of the novel.
I’m trying to make this as balanced a review as possible. And I know that there is an audience for this type of slow-burn cult novel. DiLouie will still be a starred writer for me.
3 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Orbit/Redhook books and the author for an advanced copy for review.