Theologian Matt Hunter returns in Peter Laws's second novel about religion-motivated homicides.
The story picks up several months after the events of Purged. Matt is called in to assist in the mysterious death of a schoolteacher in South London, which is allegedly tied to poltergeist activity in the area 15 years ago that resulted in the suicide of Holly Wasson, then aged 9. Matt discovers that the deceased teacher was part of a group of friends that included Holly's sister, all of whom claimed to have seen a ghostly black rabbit hopping about on the Wassons' roof just before Holly took her own life. Meanwhile, a demonologist tries to make contact with Holly's spirit, bringing him into conflict with a group of rehabilitated ex-convicts who are members of the local evangelical church. There is also a subplot involving Matt's late mother haunting his stepdaughter at the Hunters' new house in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.
Laws shows a surprising talent for poetry here, as the antagonist's point of view is fleshed out using a series of creepy poems about a demonic rabbit. He has also thrown in more elements of suspense in Unleashed, which were largely absent in Purged. Some aspects of the storyline in Uneashed also come across as somewhat unconvincing, whereas Purged had a hint of realism to it.
Terrifying mystery: In Unleashed, Peter Laws must investigate an old case of poltergeist activity that seems tied to the mysterious death of a schoolteacher in the present day
Laws, being a Baptist minister himself, has strong grasp of church history and does not hesitate to share his knowledge generously in his novels. Purged featured prominent figures in history who converted to Christianity at their deathbeds while Unleashed deals with witchcraft and how its practitioners were dealt with during the medieval era. The clash of spiritism and catechism also plays a role in Unleashed.
Unleashed would certainly find a strong following among fans of Australian writer Bridgette Powell's debut novel Reflection of Evil as both books deal with severely-deranged men killing women in cold blood, not to mention the heavy presence of spiritual elements. It would be great to see Matt Hunter returning to solve more homicides with ritualistic twists that leave the police tearing at their hair.