The Chapel St. Perilous, by Michael Rands
How is your week going
Today, I’m reviewing The Chapel St. Perilous, a thriller with supernatural undertones by Michael Rands.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
The Chapel St. Perilous is mainly set in Chickasaw, in the US. The story starts with protagonist Marcel Swart being called upon by the local police, who are asking as to the disappearance of Marcel’s landlady, Antoinette. From this point, the story delves back into the past, leading us through the events which brought Marcel into a small fortune, and subsequently into Antoinette’s life.
However, certain divine coincidences which Marcel experiences begin to worry him. Things start to go wrong in his life and he finds hope in a group which includes others who made a pact with the universe to prosper, usually in terms of wealth.
Over time, as darkness starts to overtake Marcel’s life, the group leader points him in the direction of an unusual cultural group, with a leader that may be able to help him. Unbeknownst to Marcel, this group has ancient secrets, ones which will completely change his life.
We eventually come full circle, brought back to the present where Marcel becomes a suspect in Antoinette’s disappearance. Without giving too much away, Marcel is given a new mission in life, to get rid of an evil force which is taking over Chickasaw, and indeed the US, one state at a time.
Throughout the story, two main characters caught my attention, Marcel and Antoinette.
Marcel Swart seemed to be an open and non-judgemental type of man, one who was prone to overthinking and frequent negative ruminations. He started the story as a young man in search of his fortune and ended up a man preoccupied with the idea of a curse thwarting everything he loved. We learn that he is looking to be a writer (once he has made his fortune and can relax money-wise) and indeed, his writing does get recognition from a paper as he chronicles events that occur at the site of the strange cultural group, Maggie’s Farm. My initial impression of Marcel was of a naïve and searching young man, who needed answers: to life and its mysteries. I warmed to him from the start, however, found myself growing distrustful of his character as the story neared its end.
Antoinette, another lead character, first appeared as a carefree and spirited handy-woman, who had great skill working on buildings. As Marcel’s new landlady, she came across as honest and casual, never pretending to be someone she wasn’t. This feature of her personality immediately drew me to her and I found myself wishing her well as a character. I also found that her accent was evoked well through the use of certain words rather than clumsy spelling alterations: I was therefore able to understand her speech, while her southern accent provided an added touch of realism to her character.
While there were multiple other characters within the story, they didn’t seem as important to the central plot, so for the time being, I have not included them.
There were many positives to this story, which I have taken the time to detail below.
- There is a beautiful, almost poetic feel to the author’s prose, which conjures vivid images in the mind.
- The story develops at a gradual pace with scenes that convey deep meaning.
- Marcel’s gradual descension into a frenzied kind of madness was executed well and showed how the supposed curse continued to affect his life in more dramatic ways.
- I liked how the author shifted from the present, back into the past, leading us up to the present moment again, to help provide added context to the mystery of Antoinette’s disappearance and the events which led up to it.
- This was an unusual story with supernatural and philosophical elements weaved in. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed the ideas which were explored and found it hard to stop reading.
As well as there being many positives to the book, I also identified some negative points.
- Sometimes, it wasn’t clear what exactly was happening: for example, whether people were living or dead.
- Some parts seemed hard to imagine as they shifted through multiple mini-scenes (this may be because Marcel’s character was influenced by drug use at times, however, it was still hard to read.)
- Given that the story starts off with the police questioning Marcel about Antoinette’s disappearance, I thought that was what the story would be about, however, there’s a long section after we return to that present point, which feels a bit hastily added. This was disappointing as I thought Antoinette’s disappearance was the climax the story had been building toward. In this way, the plot felt a little muddled and I wasn’t sure what Marcel’s real goal was in the story.
There were many interesting quotes included in this book. Below are the best seven I identified.
1) ‘All you can ever hope to understand is your own mind.’
2) ‘The way you feel is not aligned with how things actually are. Adjust your mind and things will get better.’
3) ‘Fear is a coal that never goes out. It just takes someone to come and blow on it. Then it flares back up again.’
4) ‘We’re all human, all flawed. We’re looking for solutions.’
5) ‘When you learn to think in myth, you learn the language of the Gods. When you stop thinking mechanistically, you get a hint of their plans.’
6) ‘Narratives are always bound to contradict one-another – Contradicting narratives cause turmoil, hatred, and war.’
7) ‘It is possible to be more than one thing. You are you, and also everything.’
Overall, The Chapel St. Perilous was an interesting and poetically written story, which kept me engaged throughout. There was a sense of deep meaning embedded in this narrative, however, I felt that the story was a little jumbled in places, which made it harder to understand the core message of the book.
Key themes included ‘the spiritual order’, the concept of pre-cognition, and philosophy, among others.
Please note: This book contains many references to God and religion, and includes scenes of sex and drug use. Due to the nature of its content, I’d recommend readers be aged eighteen or over.
My Rating: 4 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of unusual supernatural fiction.
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