A Gathering Of Evil: Gil Valle
Reviewed by Ben Walker
To properly appreciate Gil Valle’s A Gathering of Evil, it helps to have some context. Maybe you’re familiar with the author’s story, in which case feel free to skip ahead a couple of paragraphs. Valle was once employed by the NYPD, and alongside his day job he would write stories about murder. This lead to him being falsely accused of plotting to kill and eat women, and he was branded with the salacious title of The Cannibal Cop.
After his name was cleared, he decided to write a memoir, and he’s been writing ever since. A Gathering of Evil is his debut novel, and it shows. There’s a story, there are characters, and everything ticks along at a neat pace. What strikes you is how everyday the book feels, how mundane. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The strength of this book lies in its matter-of-fact approach to the plot, which involves a group of rich arseholes kidnapping, torturing and eating women. Once the characters are set up, through accounts of their everyday routines and snapshots of their social media, web chats and so on, the action unfolds in a pretty straightforward manner. It reads more like a log of events than a novel, which lends the narrative a strangely unsettling quality. You can easily imagine the events being drawn from witness statements, interviews and so on, especially given Valle’s background. There’s none of the comfort that a tightly-plotted novel might offer, just constant realism, and it’s almost too realistic at times.
In the same way that Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door makes you read through your fingers, giving you that feeling of conspiracy, like you shouldn’t be witnessing such horrid events, …Evil wants to make you watch. There’s no respite, no humour to offset the terror, just a constant spiral towards the inevitable. There’s one part where you feel like the victims might rally, find some way out of their predicament, but it’s a total red herring.
Once the obscenely graphic torture scenes begin toward the back end of the story, you get the occasional break, but they only serve to twist the knife in further. While you’re suffering alongside the hapless victims, you’re thrown briefly into the lives of their families, friends and co-workers as they try to make sense of what’s happening. “I hope (such and such) is OK,” they’ll say, “I’ve not seen them in ages,” and then you’re back into the torture room, a helpless witness to waterboarding, electrocutions and much, much worse. The police don’t show up until very late in the proceedings, and by then you’re struggling to retain any hope at all.
All the while, the perpetrators of these sick acts just get on with it. The kidnap and murder are long-held fantasies for the instigators, a married couple drawn together by their love of evil. Their discussions surrounding their plan, and the progression of their horrid fantasy, feel as banal as deciding what colour to paint the bathroom. Again, this everyday feeling, this sense of detachment is what drives the terror. The things they do to their victims are sickening, but the attitudes here are somehow just as despicable.
Can I say that I enjoyed the book? As a story, no, but it’s interesting in the same way as a police procedural show or a documentary on murderers might be. Would I recommend it? Yes, if you like reading true life accounts of serial killers, or if you get a kick out of extreme horror. The fact that it veers so hard towards reality might be too much for some, so if you’re looking for horror with a more fantastical edge, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.
Gil Valle, the former NYPD patrol cop who rose to infamy in 2012 after he was wrongfully arrested by the feds for allegedly plotting to kidnap, cook, and eat women, fleshes out his fantasies in his debut novel, A Gathering of Evil, serving up a feast of gut-churning horror.
Sarah McConnell and Jennifer Miller are two young, attractive New Yorkers leading seemingly normal lives. Unbeknownst to them, they have been targeted by a group of wealthy and violent sadists, who meet through the Dark Web and share some rather unusual and deviant sexual desires, along with a desire to turn those twisted fantasies into reality.
Marilyn and Bruce, the wealthy couple from upstate New York who have organized the event, have gathered this group of people from all different backgrounds and brought them together through a common bond: The lust and desire to kidnap a young woman and brutally end her life.
The hunt is on. Will the prey survive this gathering of evil?
WARNING: This book contains graphic and violent material. It is intended for mature audiences only.
Ben Walker is a British reviewer/writer who had his tiny mind ruined by an illicit viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing when he was a young lad, and his mind is still pretty tiny and ruined now. His past review credits include reviews & interviews on the sadly defunct UK Horror Scene website. Nowadays you can find him on YouTube talking about the weird books & movies that tickle his fancy.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BensNotWriting
Please visit Ben’s blog here
You can visit Ben’s Youtube channel here