Chilling novel of psychological terror and demonic possession. High suspense. Right up there with King, Straub & Wilson.
As I'm a big fan of the genre known (to me) as "Movies-With-Satan," I thought I'd try out this book in the same genre, even though I haven't been overly delighted with Strieber's writing in the past. ('The Hunger' is one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the book, and the sequel to 'The Hunger' was just awful.)
'Unholy Fire' starts out promisingly trashy, with a rich club kid (or is she an angel?) (or is she a prostitute/dominatrix?) named Maria, who has a thing for seducing priests.
However, after the first chapter, Maria gets offed, and the entire rest of the book is a mystery regarding which of the three main priests (kindly, elderly Father John? young, conservative Frank Bayley? mute, possibly crazy Tom Zimmer?) may be Satanically possessed (or just crazy), and committing terrible crimes....
The novel never delves deeply into anyone's motivations. We never find out the truth behind all the questions that are raised regarding Maria, and we never even discover WHY the killer has become so twisted in the ways that he has....
It's been a long time since I read this book, but I always enjoy Streiber. This book is a psychological thriller with demonic possession thrown in, and a murder that takes place in a church.
Father John Rafferty is a dedicated priest, yet he also struggles mightily against the temptation presented to him by one of his beautiful young parishioners - a seductive young woman whom he regularly counsels. Despite faltering in his faith, he nevertheless takes the tenants of his vocation very seriously, and so Fr. Rafferty ministers to those among his parishioners who desperately need his help. As he continues to counsel this troubled young woman, he has no idea how much his faith will ultimately be tested by his confrontation with true evil.
After he discovers the woman's horribly mutilated body in front of the altar of his own church, Fr. Rafferty quickly becomes the prime suspect in her murder. However, as the death toll rises, he begins to suspect that someone close to him - someone with a very obvious and deep-seated hatred of the church is targeting his parishioners in their malevolent killing spree. Yet as each murder increases in brutality, Fr. Rafferty slowly begins to realize that he is battling against something truly diabolical.
As homicide detectives Kitty Pearson and Sam Dowd investigate the case, they struggle to reconcile the evidence that they find with the range of potential suspects. Although all the evidence that the detectives uncover seems to point toward a psychotic murderer, their primary suspect appears to be a dedicated, holy man - a man who seems utterly incapable of inflicting such severe brutality. Sometimes, though, such appearances can be deceiving...
First of all, let me say that this type of story always intrigues me. I'm not sure what it is exactly; maybe it's the supernatural style of the horror, the mysteriousness of the plot, or maybe even the involvement of the Catholic Church, but I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I'm delighted to say that the story itself held my attention all the way through in an unexpected way. I would definitely give Unholy Fire by Whitley Strieber an A!
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER WITH DEMONIC POSSESSION. GOOD IF YOU LIKE THIS KIND OF STORY.