Our Lady Of The Inferno – Book review
OUR LADY OF THE INFERNO takes place in 1983 and zeroes in on the lives of two dissimilar women living in New York who differ in drive, goals, and experience. Despite their differences their lives will eventually collide, and they’ll face their own perceptions of true evil and be forced to battle it out.
OLOTI as a title for this horror story about survival, beasts and the seedy underbelly of 42nd Street is interesting for two reasons―the title (and storyline) reference both Dante’s Inferno and Biblical stories about the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you have some awareness of religion and mediaeval poetry, the two references should give you some indication of what this very vivid, visual and wildly paced story is all about.
Written by RUE-MORGUE and SCREEM scribe Preston Fassel, who is known for his unique and smartly crafted feminist horror, OLOTI is a blood-drenched page turner that creates such vivid images, that I felt I had to wash the 42nd Street grime off my face at the end of each chapter.
Though quite young herself, Ginny is the sole caregiver for Tricia, her wheelchair-bound sister. She’s the home school teacher and den mother as well for the other 42nd Street working girls living under the heavy hand of “The Colonel” in his hotel which Ginny affectionately refers to as “The Misanthrope.” When she’s not hooking, attending to the Colonels “needs” or taking care of Tricia and the other girls, Ginny can be found trash-talking with her friend Roger over some super-gory horror films. All of this is accomplished while highly inebriated inasmuch as Ginny is a functioning (but barely) alcoholic. Ginny also scouts for fresh recruits for the Colonel, and just as Ginny was snowed by her predecessor, she feeds the bait lines to vulnerable teen girls about making some money, friends, and a future as an “entertainer”. When our story begins Ginny is doing just that― scouting. The Colonel is hell-bent on always having a stable of eight girls working for him but one girl didn’t come home the other night. Roger thinks he saw her getting into a “John’s” green van but in most instances, the girls just take off. Roger tells Ginny that he believes the “Green Van” is solely responsible for the disappearance of several 42nd Street working girls who once were living at “The Misanthrope.”
Nicolette is a female version of Patrick Bateman from AMERICAN PSYCHO. She spends a lot of time doing her best to appear human but it’s a very controlled and calculated act. She isn’t human, and when her human form shifts into her true identity, she is far from humane as well. Like most beasts, Nicollete needs blood and freshly killed meat to survive, and offer at her altar as a sacrificial tribute.
The book flips back and forth between the storylines of these two very different single women in New York. At first I found it distracting but as the story intensified shortly afterwards, I thought it was a good idea to switch one off and go back to the other women’s storyline when you need a palette cleanser. Did I say that the stories are intense? Yeah, intense and quite vivid too.
Fassel has created some really well-developed and interesting female characters who aren’t following in the usual steps of women in horror films―especially when compared to the 1980’s, when misogyny was at its peak. He’s a master at crafting and painting a scene so thoroughly that it leapt off the pages for me. I could smell the garbage from the Staten Island landfill, hear the faint hum of a radio through The Misanthrope’s air ducts, and feel my heart beat out of my chest when faced with a battle and potential death. The pacing of the book starts out of the gate running while taking its time to allow the reader to get a feeling for the characters. I was hesitant at first to pick up the book because of its length (300 pages) but once I started reading and got into it, I couldn’t stop. In the end, the book felt really concise and tightly edited.
OUR LADY OF THE INFERNO is graphic and very bloody so if that’s not your thing, you may need to take a pass on it. Luckily, this one was right up my alley, and I was so invigorated by the characters that long after finishing the book I still thought about them. To summarize, this is a great read, and Fassel has found a new fan.
5 tombstones out of 5