Book review: Reviver by Seth Patrick
When the film rights to a novel are snapped up before it is even published, you know you are in for something special…
And Reviver, billed as one of the finest urban noir horror debuts of 2013, doesn’t disappoint. From its arresting first sentence through an opening chapter that is so irresistibly and hair-raisingly seductive and into a story bristling with originality and descriptive excellence, this is truly a book to savour.
Revivers are paranormal specialists who can briefly resuscitate the recently dead, allowing them to reveal details of their own demise and, in the case of murder or accident victims, to identify their killers.
This imaginative and exciting scenario opens up fascinating plotline possibilities but the thrill of Northern Ireland-born Seth Patrick’s supernatural crime mystery lies principally in its ability to create the world of the revivers with such powerful and vivid credibility.
From the science of reviving through the gruesome psychological and physical impact of bringing the dead back to life and the emergence of religious protest groups who regard the act as desecration, this is the creation of a phenomenon that is plausibly, palpably and terrifyingly real.
It’s now 12 years since the first reviver was brought to the attention of the public through American journalist Daniel Harker who inadvertently stumbled on the story of a lifetime, and literally made a killing from it.
Revivers, who wake and talk to the dead, have become accepted by an uneasy public, although there is still fierce opposition from a group called the Afterlifers who have denounced the whole process as ‘an abomination.’
Revival has become a profitable business with burgeoning fields of private revival. The testimony of the dead is also permitted in courtrooms across the world and forensic revival is a routine part of police investigation.
In Richmond, Virginia, that responsibility falls to the Forensic Revival Service and despite his troubled past, Jonah Miller is one of their best. A shy and vulnerable loner who finds it hard to form a relationship with women who can sense the ‘chill’ in his revivalist physical touch, Jonah’s life centres around his work. ‘Revival wasn’t a job. It was what he was.’
But while reviving a psychologist beaten to death in her own office, he encounters a terrifying presence. Jonah senses something watching, waiting, stalking, circling…
His bosses tell him it was all in his mind, a product of stress, a ‘burnout’ from too many revivals. But Jonah is not so sure. Then Daniel Harker, the man who discovered the first reviver, is murdered, and Jonah finds himself getting dragged into the hunt for answers.
Working with Harker’s journalist daughter Annabel, Jonah is determined to find those responsible but soon they uncover long-hidden truths about revivers that call into doubt everything Jonah stands for, and reveal a threat which could put all of humanity in mortal danger…
Reviver, whose film rights have been sold to the production company behind the latest Batman films, is the first of what promises to be a terrific trilogy.
A superbly fleshed-out cast of characters, including Jonah’s amiable friend and revivalist technician Never Geary, add ballast to a story which gives us some brilliantly spooky moments, melds crime and the paranormal in a cracking, page-turning thriller and asks serious moral questions about the exploitation of the bereaved.
An impressive, intelligent and exciting debut…
(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)