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The debut novel of the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015
On a day beginning with a bad omen – black vultures, known locally as John Crows, crash through the local church windows – a handsome and charismatic stranger drags the village preacher from his pulpit and takes over both church and congregation. Promising vengeance and damnation, he wastes no time delivering both, and in doing so starts a power struggle that sets the village of Gibbeah on a path to destruction.
With language as taut as classic works by Cormac McCarthy, and a richness reminiscent of early Toni Morrison, John Crow’s Devil is a terrifying and moving novel about religious mania, redemption, sexual obsession and the eternal struggle between the righteous and the wicked.
Set in James's native Jamaica, this dynamic, vernacular debut sings of the fierce battle between two flawed preachers. In 1957, the village of Gibbeah is a dusty remnant of the plantation era, halfheartedly ministered to by drunken Pastor Hector Bligh, aka the Rum Preacher. On a day beginning with a bad omen black vultures, locally called John Crows, crash through the church windows a man calling himself Apostle York "set pon Pastor Bligh like when you beat a mangy dog" and takes over his church. Bligh takes refuge in the home of another village outcast, while York's commanding presence whips Gibbeah into a frenzy of repentance. Lucinda, long reviled as the town slut, sets her sights on salvation and the Apostle, while Clarence, with whom she had a dalliance, becomes one of "The Five," a group of young men eager to enforce York's decrees against sin. It isn't long before group cohesion becomes mob mentality, and punishments grow increasingly brutal and public. Bligh returns to the fray, and the resulting confrontations set the village on a path to destruction. With gruesome and sometimes gratuitous descriptions of sex and gore, this isn't a tale for the faint of heart, but those eager for fire-and-brimstone lyricism will find this an exciting read.