S. E. England describes Father of Lies as Book One of a darkly disturbing occult horror trilogy. The book lives up to that description and more. England presents a complex main theme and several interesting subordinate themes. This is a very busy, exciting book with lots of disturbing material presented in a way which may disturb the reader but will not offend. One important element is is child abuse in many forms to include sexual. Yet there is minimal to no offensive sexual language. Human sacrifice should be disturbing to most but the language used in description is not.
The main theme is the discussion of mental illness from the perspectives of patients, mental health workers (both staff and doctors), and members of the clergy. The discussion of whether behavior is psychotic or not of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Disassociative Identities Disorder (DID), and of schizophrenia will satisfy readers who like some scientific realism mixed with fiction. A plot that involves witches, mediums, and an omnipresent evil entity which interferes with all characters will satisfy fiction lovers.
Dr. Jack Hardy is one of the first characters we meet. He is struggling to find ways to get through to Ruby, a patient under his care who has been alternately catatonic and violent for almost two years. Nothing has worked and Jack is prepared to make one more last ditch therapy attempt before abandoning her as one of the ones who can’t be helped. He has almost no support from the rest of the staff with the possible exception of nurse Becky. Jack makes a statement in chapter 26 that covers the breadth of the novel’s main theme. It comes at a time when Dr. Hardy is having a few problems of his own. “Those anti-psychotics (drugs) made the poor sods (patients) look mad if they didn’t before…At least they had a chance though… The truly mad had nothing… And the possessed were f****d.” (p. 224). With confidence in his profession such as this, Dr. Hardy would not be my first choice of therapist.
There are lots and lots of characters in this story and almost all of them engage the reader. Ruby, as a central character, troublemaker, and unfortunate victim has many identities. Not one or three. When one of her identities agrees to talk about with Dr. Kristy Silver, the patient takes time to draw an organizational chart in an attempt to list them all. Some of those characters do not play a large part in the story, so they are not developed. But every other identity is well developed and each one grabbed my attention.
Some novels have a spoiler when it comes to the surprise ending. Not this one. There are many surprises throughout and I don’t want to identify any of them. I will just note one of the “issues” that should assure England a faithful reader following.
Celeste is a medium, not a witch. But she is run out of her neighborhood by others who think she is a witch. Did they evict her because she was a witch or because with her second sight she could identify satanic cultists living nearby? Celeste had the opportunity to meet Ruby prior to Ruby’s stay in Drummersgate Secure Forensic Unit. She recognized Ruby as one with powers similar to hers but warned Ruby that the power had to be controlled; Celeste offered to train Ruby but Ruby never returned for the lessons. So is multi-personality Ruby crazy or is she a misunderstood person with psychic powers?
This is a very entertaining novel and one of the first that I both read and listened to. I didn’t want to put the book down but I had work requirements so I read it on my Kindle and listened to it on Audible.com.
In this way, it was a one day, read in one sitting event.