There’s a new serial killer stalking London, but as the population quivers, wondering who will be the next victim, a team of cynical broadcast journalists celebrate – for them, it’s the best news in a long time.
The New Prophet is a brutal, 18-certificate thriller that doesn’t hold back. Penned by Rex Richards, an author who used to work in the crazy world of TV and radio, it takes an extremely jaundice view of the UK’s media and obsession with celebrity that may make you think twice about the true motives of our networks and more fame-hungry stars.
We see the world through the bleary eyes of Jack Donaldson, a cynical, womaniser whose love of Class A drugs looks set to lose him his job as lead news anchor on ITN’s News at Ten.
Indeed, former weather girl and attractive new co-anchor, Najida Islam, is being groomed to become his replacement. She’s getting all the plump news stories as Jack gazes vacantly at the studio lights, wondering to himself if broadcast news is actually nothing more than a new religion, albeit one where the idea is to make its devotees terrified about the world around them rather than the one yet to come.
Jack, however, gets a much-needed career life-line when he happens upon the horrifically-mutilated corpse of a young woman– the first victim of The New Prophet.
As we learn, this depraved killer is actually three distinct personalities within one body. The Vessel is the host, unconscious of his other selves as they take him over to do their foul biddings. The second is The Heat, a living fire which pours through the Vessel’s skin in multi-coloured plumes of flame. This entity directs the third personality, the titular New Prophet, convincing him that it is only through the forced sacrifice of others that he will finally find peace from the horrors of his past.
The station goes to town on the murder and is soon soaring high in the ratings, trumping their bitter rivals over at the BBC. But the rating wars never ends and Jack’s nemesis, suave Nathan Silver, is soon back on top with reports of a humanitarian crisis in Africa.
Jack and his boss, the amoral Max, pray for another killing to seize upon and when The New Prophet texts Jack with an announcement of more to come, they can’t wait. Delightedly calling the police, they try to engineer a showdown with the murderer for prime-time showing but he has the inside scoop and Jack is left fearing for his life.
As things begin to slide out of his control, and the victims pile up, Jack wonders if he should have refrained from playing with fire.
The New Prophet is not for the delicate or easily-offended. Indeed, the book opens with a clear warning and flippant suggestion of seeking out a “Young Adult novella about plucky fairies” instead. For those readers who stick around, they will enjoy a barrage of violent action, sex, jet-dark humour and venomous broadsides on the media that make for a memorable if unsettling novel.
If you ever wondered what the lovechild of Taggart and Drop the Dead Donkey would turn out like, then The New Prophet will resolve your curiosity. A gripping read, but be prepared.