First published back in April of 2003, US author John Paul Allen’s debut novel entitled ‘Gifted Trust’ was released by Biting Dog Publications.

DLS Synopsis:
The year is 1931 and Max Belote is plagued by an incessant voice that resides solely within his head. This disembodied voice craves for Belote to partake in increasingly more depraved and sadistic activities; instructing him to perform these acts to appease the lustful desires of this unseen entity. Up until the voice began tormenting the moderately successful businessman, Belote had lived a happy existence with his much loved wife. However, after he is pushed into undertaking a savage rape on an innocent fourteen-year-old girl, Belote decides there is only one course of action to rid himself of the demon dubbed Virago, that so haunts his mind. With elaborate planning to ensure that his wife is taken care of financially after the deed is done, Belote ends his double-life at the speeding jaws of a passing locomotive.

Forty-six years later and its 1977 whereby convicted murderer Jeffrey Michel Roberts tells his life story; detailing the traumatic childhood he underwent, through his adolescent years of fighting back, until his adulthood (which until he was eventually apprehended), comprised of murder, rape and the sadistic abuse of women and children. During all these years of inflicting pain and suffering on his victims, Roberts believed that he was merely perfecting his soul under the guidance of a voice that spoke to him in his mind. The voice of Virago.  And for his actions, Roberts is sentenced to death by the electric chair.

It’s now 2001 and homosexual sports coach, Edward Paine, has been suffering from the recent re-emergence of some worrying sexual desires towards his teenage pupils. Paine’s psychiatrist (and lover), Dr Wade Adamson, is helping him to overcome these unwanted desires whilst coming to terms with a number of haunting memories that were found lurking deep within his subconscious mind. Memories of murder, rape and torture. Memories from a life that has transcended death, time and time again...

DLS Review:
Allen’s savage tale of reincarnation starts off well, with an intriguing beginning that draws the reader into the story’s intrinsically contrived premise. The characterisation is carefully sculpted, bringing out a handful of full-bodied characters to weave the early-half of the story around. The attack on the young girl, Anna, is shocking in its unrelenting brutality and powerfully sexual nature. And the imagery created by Allen’s literary ability, however shocking, slices a scalpel-thin line through your conscience, leaving the reader feeling faintly disgusted with themselves once the lust-fuelled violence has finished.

Before long the tale is jumping forward to 1977 where Allen once again embarks on a litany of sexual depravation to compel and appal his readers. The result is by far the most engaging section of the entire book, with a well-written storyline that flows with the ease of a creepy-campfire-tale. As with a good Laymon story, for a while you become submerged in the simple telling of the tale; with moments of brutal and sadistic violence bursting forth from amongst the latticework of literary craftsmanship.

The Jeffrey Dahmer-esque chapters detailing the Jeffrey Michael Roberts story have a haunting so-close-to-reality quality about them; creeping into the readers nerves with the spine-chilling reality of it all. The violence is once again of a strong and sexual nature, feeding the beast of this thus-far unrelenting tale.

However, the tensely gripping nature of the story is sadly not maintained. From the initial two sub-stories that set down the backbone for the tale, Allen looses the flowing rhythm and tightness of the storyline, which had thus far drawn the reader in. The remaining half of the book seems fragmented and haphazardly pieced together, staggering around a ‘master-plot-line’ that barely manages to hold the tale together.

With the momentum well and truly gone, the remaining half of the novel goes through painstaking lengths to carve out what is left of a tale. The double-finale is similarly disjointed, leaving a somewhat unsatisfying taste in the readers mouth.

This sudden fall-from-form within the latter half of the book is a bitter disappointment after such a promising beginning. Indeed, the characters themselves seem less lovingly developed upon, compared with those of the earlier pages.

For all its ups and downs, John Paul Allen’s debut novel ‘Gifted Trust’ is still an enjoyable read. His ability to portray such brutally sexual violence, with an unforgiving and unashamed eye for its importance within the tale, is a definite strength. With some drastic re-working and tightening of the second half of the novel, ‘Gifted Trust’ could have become a startlingly disturbing horror story with a harrowing undertone of an evil that never dies.

The novel runs for a total of 300 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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