First published back in October of 2019, British horror author Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Testament’ formed the fifth instalment within the author’s ‘Shaun Doyle’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
Sean Doyle had been in Central Iraq for over a year, working as a private security operative, when his past finally caught up with him. It’s been almost thirty-years since Doyle last laid eyes on CTU’s Jonathan Parker, so his sudden appearance raises instant concerns for the ex-CTU agent.

Despite Doyle’s age and the fact he’d been out of the Counter Terrorist Unit for so long, the department are nevertheless asking for his assistance. It appears a case Doyle previously worked on, almost thirty-years ago, has been reopened. And only Doyle knows what really transpired that night when it all came to a dramatic conclusion. Or so they thought it had.

The case still haunted Doyle to this very day. It had seen his partner and lover, Georgina Willis, killed in the line of duty. All because of one man. The billionaire arms dealer, David Callahan, who the CTU had been investigating for reportedly selling weapons to the IRA. That fateful night Doyle had uncovered something more terrifying about Callahan. The man was hellbent on acquiring the secret to immortality, through possessing a stained-glass window from the chapel of Gilles de Rais.

Doyle had killed Callahan, along with a demonic beast which had been in the same room with the arms dealer. However, now the CTU were stating Callahan had recently been spotted walking around. Alive and once again involved in more dangerous and illegal activity. As if he’d never been killed.

Furthermore, Callahan had been spotted with Vasili Gorchev, a powerful member of the Russian Mafia. The gang were the prime suspects in a smash and grab heist at the British Museum, which saw an ancient grimoire stolen. The book – The Domus Vitae – had reportedly been written by the satanist, Gaston Lavelle, in the fifteenth century. An ancient tome providing details of the black mass, how to conjure demons, and the secrets for raising the dead.

Somehow all these pieces are connected. There must be a logical explanation for the disappearance of Callahan’s body? Surely, there was no way the bastard was still alive?! And what does the mafia want with a fifteenth century grimoire? None of it makes any sense to Doyle. But he’s sure as hell going to get to the bottom of it, and in doing so, take another thick slice of revenge…

DLS Review:
It’s been almost thirty-years since ‘Renegades’ (1991) was first published. In that classic Hutson offering, we were introduced to Sean Doyle, as well as David Callahan and the billionaire villain’s dark plot for immortality. With this fifth instalment into the Sean Doyle books, we’re taken back to the plot of the original book, with a fresh new storyline stemming from where ‘Renegades’ (1991) left off all those years ago.

The character of Sean Doyle might be pushing on in years a tad, but trust me, he’s still just as hard-boiled as he was back then. The guy’s been keeping himself fit and sharp through his private security duties in the blistering heat of Baghdad.

For the first hundred-or-so pages of the book, Hutson’s just setting the scene and re-familiarising us with our gritty protagonist. There are a few plot threads which run concurrently over these initial pages. Alongside reacquainting us with Doyle, we also have Callahan’s old house being dug up and his body going missing, there’s also a whole nightmarish ordeal when the grimoire is flown in from France, and of course the Russian Mafia’s heist at the British Museum, when the grimoire is finally on display there. However, for the large part, the first third-or-so of the story focuses on Doyle, his mental and physical state, and building up his motivation to be flown back to London to get involved in the case.

There’s a couple of other subplots thrown into the mix, in which we bear witness to the devastation of a small family unit after a young son kills himself, as well as another small plot thread involving the acquisition of the Maitland Hall – an impressive mansion on the outskirts of London.

As you can no doubt imagine, all these storylines eventually converge, some only in the latter stages of the book, when all is revealed. Along the way, however, Hutson delivers one of his tightest horror-thrillers to date. Achieving this, Hutson uses short, snappy chapters designed to keep the momentum going. Each chapter ends on a mini-cliff hanger, with each having their own mini-objective and generally lasting only 4-5 pages (amounting to a total of 127 chapters).

That said, this is probably Hutson’s longest novel to date. Considering how Hutson writes with zero-padding, an absolute shit-tonne happens in this novel. In fact, there’s almost a full secondary story woven into the beast. The end result is a pulpy occultist horror pulling in reanimated corpses, alongside a fast-paced thriller with the Russian Mafia causing fucking mayhem in London.

There’s also a hell of a lot of classic Hutson thrown in here too. Not just with the regular use of his signature descriptors (characters always “smiling thinly”, the “pulsing knot at the side of their jaw”, the “air heavy with cordite”, and of course the “coppery scent of blood”), but also with all the textbook Hutson scenes that make up this furiously paced storyline.

A prime example of this is a particularly nasty couple of chapters involving a pair of prostitutes who Callahan (in his new undead state) unleashes the full brunt of his sadistic nature upon. The focus of the piece is clearly on displaying the psychopathic viciousness of Callahan’s actions. However, the scene also harks back to Hutson’s earlier novel ‘Assassin’ (1988), which then instigates the reader pulling in a heap of other comparisons between the two novels.

Furthermore, Hutson throws in a few nods to some of his other work, most notably with a scene with large slugs creeping along the roof of a tunnel (all very ‘Breeding Ground’ (1985)). I guess it’s all designed to delight his long-standing fans who’ll no doubt spot and smile at all such references (I frigging did!).

However, there are a few scenes in the novel which are definitely a tad harder to swallow. In particular, a handful of chapters involving kids, which instantly chill the blood. It should be noted there’s not a vast amount of this within the tale, but when it hits, Hutson doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever with the delivery. You have been warned!

All in all, this is a tight, roller-coaster ride of a horror-thriller, with the plot constantly playing to Hutson’s strengths. The interwoven storylines are as elaborate as they are bursting with energy. Yeah, they do get a tad silly in places, and the lengthy final showdown with Callahan is perhaps the epitome of how far this suspension-of-disbelief can go. But just take it as it comes and embrace the sheer over-the-top madness of it all.

The novel runs for a total of 463 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Sean Doyle’ instalments:


Make a free website with Yola