Written by Wrath James White
Published by Sinister Grin Press
Wrath James White’s Sacrifice is built around one of the best premises I’ve encountered in recent genre memory. Imagine being “blessed” with the ability to remove a person’s crippling fear and hatred entirely. And, more important to that basis, what would you do with that energy once you’ve siphoned it, and how might that impact you?
This is Delilah’s gift. She’s a voodoo priestess living in a sprawling mansion on the outskirts of Las Vegas, and she’s developed a steady stream of obsessively loyal clientele. When a young college student named April is brought before her, looking to be cured of crippling sexual hang-ups, the two form an instant bond.
The meeting is a success as all of April’s fear and hatred dissipates, leaving the two women to realize they share a mutual affection.
This happens as Vegas is seized by a series of bizarre killings. Detectives Jake Malloy and Mohammed Rafik find themselves working a case involving bloodthirsty animals and murderous children. These guys aren’t well-adjusted individuals, grappling with a genuine mistrust of women and a suffocating marriage, respectively. But they’re determined to close the book on a story that gets weirder with every turn of the page. Unsurprisingly, the bloodshed leads back to Delilah and the cult that happens to worship the deity inside of her.
Perhaps it sounds as though I’m being spoiler-y, but I haven’t revealed anything beyond the halfway point. Sacrifice is well written and faster paced, a semi-sequel to White’s 2009 novel The Resurrectionist (review). It offers a self-contained story with just a handful of fleeting references to its predecessor (even the main characters are different). No worries if you haven’t read the first because Sacrifice is a genuine page-turner on its own. With it White spins an interesting yarn of supernatural horror while using the material to explore the grim realities of the human condition.
That’s the real horror of the book. The animal attacks are fun, and some of the killer kid carnage more than fulfills any gore requisites, but it’s the psychological component that really burrows beneath the skin. Once it’s revealed precisely what Delilah does with the venomous energy she extracts, the story becomes a nihilistic critique of our species. White’s villains are well defined, and the relationship between Delilah and April is unexpectedly involving. This certainly isn’t a love story, but it’s a subplot that gives the novel a surprising sweet side—a welcome contrast to the bleak narrative. And the heroes may be good people, but they’re conflicted as well, struggling to keep their lives together while the world around them falls apart.
Sacrifice may not grip you from word one. Many books don’t. But not every book sneaks up on you, and that’s where this one shines. I devoured the second half of this in one sitting because I suddenly realized how invested I was in the material. When it was over, I realized that I would’ve been happy for it to keep going. And I can’t think of a better recommendation than that. This is a horror story that truly delivers.
4 out of 5