Blending family tragedy with possible Satanic forces and a brutal homicide makes for an exciting premise in Revelations 12:12 by David de Freitas. Through careful storytelling and a healthy dose of suspense, this novel is a slow-burning thriller with enough twists to keep even veteran readers guessing.
Simon is a young boy born under slightly mysterious circumstances to a kind and cursed woman named Martha, whose husband dies before the child’s first birthday. Shadowing the boy throughout his early years is Dr. Brockman, a quiet and eccentric character who seems cloaked in secrecy. From the day Simon was born to various other unexpected appearances, this doctor seems to be guiding his life, or at least helping to shape it, but the unsettling man’s ultimate intentions – and origins – remain clouded in mystery.
The novel properly kicks off when Simon’s girlfriend, Julia, is found murdered with a strange blade, and every finger in town points at Simon. Brought up in a highly spiritual house, but always feeling as though he has been touched by some sort of dark magic, Simon is a brilliant character to watch develop. His nightmares and disturbing visions of the murder make him an obvious suspect, but there are far too many layers in this novel to so quickly deliver a verdict.
The supernatural elements are subtle to start, but as the story moves forward, it becomes much more clear that Simon and his doctor are tangled up in very dark dealings with destiny. With the devil in one corner and his mother in another, a battle for the young man’s soul is underway, and collateral damage is unavoidable. The story cleverly lures readers in, slipping in cryptic allusions, making it difficult to put down.
Unfortunately, some of the eventual “Aha” moments are clunky and forced. When writing a suspenseful thriller, it is best to avoid being heavy-handed in plot-progressing revelations, but de Freitas seems to drop in convenient explanations whenever it suits his purposes. This makes it easier for readers to follow the story, but it is also akin to spoon-feeding them information. Some of the connecting plot points are also a bit unbelievable, as though the author didn’t quite plan out the entire novel from start to finish, and hurriedly tried to plug plot holes.
Additionally, the supporting characters aren’t as well constructed as Simon, particularly the parents of Julia, and a seemingly inept police force. This is exacerbated by some highly unrealistic dialogue between most of the characters. The classic adage of “show, don’t tell” is definitely applicable for this book, especially in terms of dialogue, which is a particular problem in such a dialogue-heavy book. When readers are unable to believe the interactions between characters, interest and engagement with the plot suffers.
While Revelations 12:12 has an intriguing premise and a few notable characters that have been developed well, there is a general lack of polish in the prose. However, it is also clear that David de Freitas has a huge amount of creative potential, as this novel has a great foundation for a gripping and original supernatural thriller if more time were taken with the execution.
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