Christopher Owens 🔖takes the reader into the crazed world of one who kills for god. 


The whole world was dying. For where, in this dying world, in Babylon, lived the real disciples? Where lived the new Andrew, new Peter? Why did God give him Judas, the Silver Pieces Man?

Uttered by the protagonist, it is an interesting insight into the fanatic and an example of why Nick Cave talks about the necessity of scepticism when it comes to genuine faith, otherwise it quickly becomes an ego trip. But when the character under discussion is also a killer, the quote takes on more ominous tones.

Especially when, in the first ten pages, we read about two murders being carried out (and arranged) by said barnstormer.

Just the sort of introduction needed to this, the debut novel from Boston writer Max Thrax.

God is a Killer tells the tale of Alex MacDougall, a religious fanatic (is there any other type in noir) who is looking to restart his old tribe (the Eternal Nations in the Wilderness of New England) and won’t let anything get in his way. Sheriff Fitzroy, a corrupt cop who effectively runs the town (once again, is there any other type in noir), has to go after him but there’s also outside interest in the town, especially for MacDougall’s former house now inhabited by Sarah, his ex-wife. As you can imagine, the collision of tradition, modernity and psychopathology means it can only end one way, but it’s all about the journey. And this is one hell of a journey.

Very much in the mould of Jim Thompson (with elements of Cormac McCarthy in there as well), what lifts this book above mere imitation is the terse, clipped writing that feeds into both the dialogue and the characterisations. Even though everyone is playing a particular role, they are fleshed out and engaging (in particular MacDougall).

All too often, crime writers tend to fixate on plot as opposed to character. Here, the plot has the potential for greater elaboration but, wisely, Thrax keeps it condensed to necessity. While elaborate plotting will always have its place, it’s compelling protagonists that keep the interest of most readers. The end result here is that the reader is always on edge, expecting an outburst of violence any minute, but is always compelled to keep with the story because of the personalities make the story engaging.

In the case of MacDougall, take this prayer of his:

Blessed is the wound. Blessed is the skin. Blessed is the bone. Blessed is the throne on which He sits. Blessed is the touch. Blessed is the hand. Blessed is the tongue of the Holy One who heals us now. Over time and space, the creator of the race rules the world and all its flesh. Blessed is the skin. Blessed is the oil rubbed on the sores. Blessed be the door that opens to health.

On the face of it, there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on here. But note how he begins by noting the wounds from the crucifixion, and then goes onto mentioning things like skin, bones and tongues. What he is doing, effectively, is placing himself (in the absence of God) into the position of almighty and thus justifying his murderous actions.

A simple trick, but difficult to pull off without making it too obvious.

In conclusion, a fine book to finish off 2022.

Max Thrax, 2022, God is a Killer. Close to the Bone Books, ISBN-13: 979-8802056381

🕮 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

God Is A Killer

Christopher Owens 🔖takes the reader into the crazed world of one who kills for god. 


The whole world was dying. For where, in this dying world, in Babylon, lived the real disciples? Where lived the new Andrew, new Peter? Why did God give him Judas, the Silver Pieces Man?

Uttered by the protagonist, it is an interesting insight into the fanatic and an example of why Nick Cave talks about the necessity of scepticism when it comes to genuine faith, otherwise it quickly becomes an ego trip. But when the character under discussion is also a killer, the quote takes on more ominous tones.

Especially when, in the first ten pages, we read about two murders being carried out (and arranged) by said barnstormer.

Just the sort of introduction needed to this, the debut novel from Boston writer Max Thrax.

God is a Killer tells the tale of Alex MacDougall, a religious fanatic (is there any other type in noir) who is looking to restart his old tribe (the Eternal Nations in the Wilderness of New England) and won’t let anything get in his way. Sheriff Fitzroy, a corrupt cop who effectively runs the town (once again, is there any other type in noir), has to go after him but there’s also outside interest in the town, especially for MacDougall’s former house now inhabited by Sarah, his ex-wife. As you can imagine, the collision of tradition, modernity and psychopathology means it can only end one way, but it’s all about the journey. And this is one hell of a journey.

Very much in the mould of Jim Thompson (with elements of Cormac McCarthy in there as well), what lifts this book above mere imitation is the terse, clipped writing that feeds into both the dialogue and the characterisations. Even though everyone is playing a particular role, they are fleshed out and engaging (in particular MacDougall).

All too often, crime writers tend to fixate on plot as opposed to character. Here, the plot has the potential for greater elaboration but, wisely, Thrax keeps it condensed to necessity. While elaborate plotting will always have its place, it’s compelling protagonists that keep the interest of most readers. The end result here is that the reader is always on edge, expecting an outburst of violence any minute, but is always compelled to keep with the story because of the personalities make the story engaging.

In the case of MacDougall, take this prayer of his:

Blessed is the wound. Blessed is the skin. Blessed is the bone. Blessed is the throne on which He sits. Blessed is the touch. Blessed is the hand. Blessed is the tongue of the Holy One who heals us now. Over time and space, the creator of the race rules the world and all its flesh. Blessed is the skin. Blessed is the oil rubbed on the sores. Blessed be the door that opens to health.

On the face of it, there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on here. But note how he begins by noting the wounds from the crucifixion, and then goes onto mentioning things like skin, bones and tongues. What he is doing, effectively, is placing himself (in the absence of God) into the position of almighty and thus justifying his murderous actions.

A simple trick, but difficult to pull off without making it too obvious.

In conclusion, a fine book to finish off 2022.

Max Thrax, 2022, God is a Killer. Close to the Bone Books, ISBN-13: 979-8802056381

🕮 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

No comments