The Soul Stealer – Graham Masterton
Not all books can work for everyone unfortunately, and The Soul Stealer is one that I didn’t click with despite my best efforts. It sounded really intriguing and I initially thought it set up an interesting case, which ultimately didn’t work out.
Many thanks to Polly at Head of Zeus for sending me a review copy – all opinions are entirely my own and the lovely Polly is not to blame for any of them!
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2022
STAR RATING: 2/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Nemo Frisby used to be a detective. Now he drives an Uber between billionaire mansions in California. But he never lost the nose for the case – and when his housecleaner Trinity Fox discovers a young woman lying dead in her neighborhood, she persuades him to help her prove it wasn’t suicide.
Their investigation leads them to the Bel Air home of a wealthy movie producer, who built his mansion over an American Indian burial site. Ancient mythology tells of a demon who, if unearthed, can imbue evil men with terrible power. But only if the demon is fed by the sacrifice of innocent lives… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Unfortunately, this is a book that made me grumpy more than anything else. I went in excited, because I’ve been enjoying thrillers a lot recently and especially those with a grounding in the supernatural and mythology. But there’s two main elements that frustrated me in The Soul Stealer: the depiction of women, and the use of Native Americans. Combine that with a plot that is infuriating more than creepy and you end up with a grumpy Fab.
There is one (1!) woman in this book who is not a victim. And she doesn’t really have much of a developed personality. Not that the men tend to fare much better in terms of being multi-layered, but there’s at least boatloads of shitty male characters, one worse than the next. It really feels that women in this story only function to propel the plot forward, to function as sacrificial victims for this cult that somehow has all the high and mighty of Hollywood “rebalance” the power that is unjustly given to women. And I’m just not here for that. I know sacrificing pretty young women is a horror trope, but for the love of intersectional feminism, balance it out by having some female characters who are neither victims not cardboard cutouts. And maybe, going out on a limb here, even some who may not be pretty.
Now, I am neither Native American or know a lot about the tribes mentioned in the book. But using a rich culture and cherry picking elements that essentially let you take a sort of demon that rapes women to death in exchange for providing men with more power? That to me does not seem like appropriate representation in the 21st century. This is the main element of this that rubbed me the wrong way, but there are a number of others that I don’t want to mention to avoid further spoilers. It just seems that if you want to use something that presents its culture in such a negative light, it may be a far better idea to invent it from scratch, rather than draw from an existing culture, and one that has been struggling with its portrayals in media for a very long time.
So, The Soul Stealer really isn’t one that I would recommend you pick up as I think it’s not just me as a reader being overly sensitive, but issues that many of you will encounter as well while reading the book.