Baptist minister finds niche in hard-boiled detective fiction market

Harrowing: The latest Matt Hunter novel from religious minister Peter Laws has the protagonist coming face to face with a doomsday cult. (Raru Online Shopping)

A British baptist minister looks to be finding his niche in market for crime fiction in his series of novels about a former clergyman who now helps police with major crimes where religion appears to be the main theme.

Following the success of the Matt Hunter novels Purged and Unleashed, the Reverend Peter Laws took time off to work on The Frighteners: Why we love monsters, ghosts death and gore in which he explored the public’s fascination with the macabre. Rev Laws later returned to the world of crime fiction with Severed – the third instalment in the Matt Hunter series – after the publication of The Frighteners. As we speak, he is working on the next Matt Hunter book, which features demonic possession as the main theme.

Harrowing: The latest Matt Hunter novel from religious minister Peter Laws has the protagonist coming face to face with a doomsday cult. (Raru Online Shopping)

In Severed, Matt has to deal with an attempted beheading of a local vicar by the latter’s own son, who is suspected to be involved in devil worship. At the same time, a doomsday cult claiming to be the last true humans left on earth are preparing for the end of the world, and Matt appears to be key to their plans. A side plot involves Matt confronting a homophobic pastor after crossing paths with a gay Religious Education teacher. After nearly getting his foot chewed up by an attack dog at the climax of Unleashed, Matt is in for worse as he faces the cult. Worse, his wife is also unwittingly dragged into it, at a great risk to her life.

In the previous two books, Matt only had to deal with deranged individuals but he has an entire cult after him this time around. This also marks a transition for the Matt Hunter series. Compared to the last two books, Severed appears to have moved somewhat towards mainstream crime fiction. Hard-boiled elements also make a few appearances throughout the book as the previously mild language takes on a more gritty feel. Some parts of this novel are rather disturbing and if your stomach happens to be weak, this might not be for you.

It cannot be denied that Rev Laws has brought some fresh air to the crime thriller genre which looks to be getting a little stuffy as more upcoming authors attempt to cash in on it. When people think about crimes motivated by religion, usually the image of a deranged Islamist blowing up a public place comes to mind. However, there are others that are perpetuated by various religious movements, most notably the Peoples Temple and the Aum Shinrikyo groups. Crimes committed by such groups often gain spotlight due to their brutal and unique nature, otherwise they might never get reported in the media. The archvillains in the previous Matt Hunter books were mentally unsound serial killers quoting biblical verses. In Severed, the bad guys are reminiscent of the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh. Having a crime thriller based on such a group is unique. It does not recycle plotlines that tend to revolve around drug gangs or rogue intelligence agents.

Severed would certainly appeal to fans of crime thrillers looking for something new. In fact, the entire Matt Hunter series would. A word of caution. Please do not read this book before going to bed.