By staff writer
If you’ve ever switched on the TV and despaired at the endless parade of vapid celebrities and sensationalist current affairs shows then rejoice - The New Prophet is here for your entertainment, ready and waiting to poke a sharply satirical sword-stick into the sleazy world of mass media. This fast-paced serial killer-thriller takes no prisoners as its rips through ‘contempt-orary’ culture with as much gusto as its titular antagonist, a deeply-psychotic and troubled individual on a personal mission to wash clean his soul with the blood of others.
Set in present-day London, The New Prophet centres around Jack Donaldson, a cynical, womanising drug addict who also happens to be the lead news anchor on ITN’s News at Ten. He’s burnt-out and hanging on to his job by a thread, with attractive new co-anchor, Najida Islam being positioned as his replacement.
A bad trip during a live broadcast looks certain to end his career, but then he stumbles upon the body of The New Prophet’s first victim, an attractive young woman who has been horrifically mutilated in some kind of ritualistic murder. Rather than call the police, he instead calls his boss, Max, and tells them he’s got a major scoop that will trounce their rivals over at BBC News in the ever-waging ratings wars. Max agrees and gives Jack a stay of execution as the full efforts of the news team turns towards exploiting the girl’s brutal killing for all its worth.
Jack’s news hunch pays off and he’s once again at the top of his game but today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper and he desperately needs another killing to keep the momentum going. Thankfully for him, The New Prophet is of a like mind and sends Jack an ominous text that suggests things are only just beginning to heat up. But as Jack is drawn further into the demented plans of his new-found cash cow, and with the police seemingly stumped as to the identity of the killer, he swiftly comes to realise that he may be playing with a fire he can’t hope to contain.
Rex Richards’ second novel, The New Prophet is certainly not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended. It comes across like the illicit offspring of Martin Amis’s Money and TV’s Drop the Dead Donkey, firing a savage salvo at what he perceives as broadcast news’s cynical obsession with tragedy and misery, and the hollow cult of celebrity.
There’s a rich, inventive vein of darker than dark comedy pulsing throughout the narrative, which keeps the reader gripped as they scramble to learn more about The New Prophet and his murderous motivations.
A side-plot about the media’s reckless whipping up of Islamophobic hysteria, pointing the finger at a Muslim man for the atrocities, is so on the nose that it stings, and the author’s own background in broadcast journalism is called upon to provide a shocking indictment of all that he sees as wrong with the current climate.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but fans of biting satire and extreme thrillers may find The New Prophet to be a revelation.