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Literature / The Gospel Of Evil

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The truth is out there.
The Gospel of Evil ("L'Évangile selon Satan") is a 2007 thriller/horror novel written by Patrick Graham. It became a best seller in France, Graham's native country, and won the prestigious Pris Maison de la Presse 2007.

1348. In midst of the Black Death, a monastery consecrated to the preservation of ancient heretic books is being ravaged by a mysterious killer. Its mother superior, Sister Yseult, ultimately buries herself alive in order to protect a terrible secret.

Present day. Some years ago, a car accident destroyed the life of Marie Parks and gave her mediumnic powers in return. Now she hunts serial killers for the FBI, where she has the reputation of both a ruthlessly efficient agent and a troubled young woman. However, when she crosses paths with a mystic killer known as Caleb during an investigation of the latter's tracks in Maine, she gets thrown to a much, much darker revelation.

At the same time, an equally angsty Vatican exorcist named Alfonso Carzo is sent to the Amazonian forest, where he discovers an ancient evil has awakened in Earth. He will be forced to confront the collapse of his own beliefs and, after teaming up with Parks, to unveil a mystery whose chilling truth threatens to destroy Christianity.


Not for the faint of heart, nor for excessively devout Catholics, but for those who enjoyed The Last Temptation of Christ and would like a Darker and Edgier story.

The novel was followed in 2008 by The Apocalypse according to Mary, which featured Marie Parks again.

Contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Carzo's investigation of Maluna's possession in the Amazonas is strangely Left Hanging after he is called back. While we later discover that a spirit passed from Maluna to Carzo and deleted his memories of it , what happened to her or why her possession turned her into a weird bat-monster (which doesn't happen to any other possessed in the book) is never explained.
  • Action Girl: Parks, although in this universe she is Overshadowed by Awesome very often.
  • Ambiguous Ending: A hospitalized Carzo reveals to Parks that he is still possessed by Caleb. What happens next is unknown. Did she pull her gun and killed him? Did she called the Vatican so they could exorcize him? Not even the next Marie Parks book reveals anything about it.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • What happens when one dies in the novel's universe? Caleb and his side are an Unreliable Narrator in this matter. He first says all humans are condemned to Hell without remission because Satan rules alone this universe, but this clashes with his other claim that Father Jacomino's soul went to Hell for the specific reason that he was secretly evil. Later he changes completely his stance and tells Carzo that every soul gets reincarnated after dying, but it is more or less clear that he says this to mess with Carzo's head. Meanwhile, Parks's mediumnic powers seem to prove all of this is false, or at least there is a cosmic alternative to it. Her talks with dead people like Crossman's wife point more to a classic TV afterlife where people simply rest in peace if they doesn't have any finished business on Earth.
    • How much truth does the Gospel of Satan tell? Christ's skull apparently proves that Jesus really disowned God and was not resurrected, and the supernatural spirits behind the Soultakers are very real, but that's all the physical proof of their cult. Their claim that God abandoned humanity is refuted by His repeated sealings of Satan through history, and their belief that Satan and God are both twin sons of the Eternal Abyss might be perfectly false too. Parks's afterlife knowledge implies a lot of this, if not all, is just Satanist propaganda.
    • Does people who read the Gospel really Go Mad from the Revelation and no other reason? The fact that all of them react the exact same way (becoming apathetic loons) and speak with identical expressions (calling repeatedly their interlocutors "poor madmen" and rambling about "the death of their faith") despite being people of varied stance and education (from medieval knights to modern priests) implies the gospel actively brainwashes the reader with its supernatural influences rather than this being a natural psychological reaction to its contents. However, no explanation is given on this, and the book's status as a literal cursed item is treated as an Elephant in the Living Room even by the most skeptical characters.
  • Ancient Conspiracy:
    • Our universe is a Cosmic Horror Story and Jesus became the son of Satan before his death, which the Church knows, yet it is kept secret to keep the world from being overcome with chaos and despair.
    • The world is secretly dominated by Novus Ordo, a Satanist conspiracy.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Custodian Sisters.
  • Arc Words: "God is in Hell. He rules over the demons. Rules over the condemned souls. Rules over the spectres who roam the darkness."
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The Tuberculis perennis found in Caleb's stomach during the autopsy is a fictitious plant species (and one whose Latin name is absurdly vague for scientific standards, by the way). Why would have he swallowed it whole instead of masticating it is another point.
    • According to the narration, Valentina removes her shoes in the Vatican archive in order not to destroy any proof. This is a strange procedural belief for a police inspector, given that her bare feet would precisely contaminate the scene with her DNA rather than avoiding any other disturbance.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • A lot, but surprisingly not as much as one might think. The satanic cosmology and history given in the Gospel of Satan are basically a mismash of the real life Christian heresies of Gnosticism. They include Gnostic elements like an original deity named Abyss with a system of beings and no-beings (as in Basilideanism), God and Satan being eternal opposites (Catharism), the world having been created in a competition between them (Manichaeism), an evil Jesus (Mandaeism), human souls reincarnating (several doctrines), and Satan actively ruling this universe (pretty much all Gnostic doctrines). The main differences are that this mix is given here a pessimistic, overly Satanic flavor (whereas in real life, even the darkest Gnostic sects were humanistically hopeful), and that the fictitious Gospel of Satan is less a manual on gnosis than a propaganda text for the Gnostic version of Satan.
    • Janus's name is trickier. The book establishes it as the name given to Jesus by Satanic cultists after disowning God, and it being a reference to the ancient Roman god of duality and two faces makes it a Meaningful Rename as well. However, while it is not impossible they had this meaning in mind, why would Hebrew cultists choose a preexistent foreign god to name their deity-founder is a never explained oddity.
    • Related to the first point, the book explains Janus's cult spread through lands and countries and had to be excised by the Catholic Church. However, in real life, it would be truly a sociopolitical oddity that an apocalyptic cult whose message amounts to "we are all going to Hell forever and there is nothing we can do about it, period" became not only accepted, but even successful. Sheer logic says that in order for an apocalyptic doctrine to thrive, it must offer some kind of salvation or chance only they could do, not to tell everybody that they are screwed whatever they are; Christianity itself became so popular in the Roman Empire to begin with precisely because it was so simple and open and promised a heavenly afterlife relatively easy to reach. (Unless, of course, that as said in Ambiguous Situation above, the reason behind the Janus boom was all the Gospel of Evil brainwashing people left and right.)
    • The Pope and Cardinal Ballestra are described to wear sandals instead of dress shoes. In real life, they would be the first high-level Vatican staff members in doing such in centuries.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • The Knight Templars were Satanists, or at least became such after finding the Gospel of Satan.
    • Possibly the same with the Cathars, who are mentioned in the prologue as being hateful heretics. The book doesn't explore them further, but anyone knowledgeable would know real life Cathars/Gnostics believed in things very similar to what the Gospel of Satan says, implying by a clever Inside Joke that they were in the conspiracy as well.
  • Big Bad: Cardinal Oscar Camano, although he is technically a servant to Gaal-Ham-Gaal.
  • Bi the Way: Both Parks and Carzo are bisexual. She claims so openly, while he acknowledges to Caleb to have had a crush on his male best friend during his teenage years.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Black Smoke of Satan is destroyed and Novus Ordo is given a heavy blow, but both will probably remerge again, especially given that the Cross of the Poor is presumably recovered by them. Also, Parks and Carzo are alive and well, but the latter is still possessed by Caleb and nothing is revealed about his fate. Finally, there is a possibility that the Gospel is telling the truth and humanity is cosmically screwed, but Crossman's dead wife shows it is possible to escape that fate.
  • The Chessmaster: Cardinal Oscar Camano.
  • Demonic Possession: Countless times, but most specifically Caleb and all the bodies he inhabits. Including Carzo.
  • Devil, but No God: The Devil's influence is ever-present in the book, with all sorts of demons, visions and supernatural events, but God's is not, aside from hopefully real happenings from the past like Satan's sealings or the apparitions of the Virgin Mary (which only get mentioned at the background). Possibly subverted when Carzo theorizes God's way to deal with the problem is precisely through him, Parks and their allies, but this is never proved to be anything other than a religious rationalization.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: God and Satan are real forces here, but apparently Thutmose III's Egyptian magic, Psychic Powers, Amazonian shamanism and some unspecified pagan exorcism rites do work as well.
  • Foreshadowing: Camano being a covert Satanist is hinted at his very introduction, where he casually utters a scandalous blasphemy to a Swiss Guard while going to see the Pope.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Mafia, with some exceptions, are solidly against Satanism too.
  • Healing Factor: Possessed people have one as long as their demon is not exorcised, although firefights with the FBI and Valentina shows that they can be killed (or at least disabled) the conventional way with the right amount of body damage.
  • I Have Many Names: Gaal-Ham-Gaal, also known as Satan.
  • Hollywood Satanism: It touches almost all the cliches, with a version of Satanism that is very theistic, in contact with real demons and secretly controlling the world. That said, this is also shown to be a cult based on a secret, very specifical set of beliefs, not your regular Satanism for Satan's sake.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: As seen in his autopsy, Caleb's possession of a medieval cultist put the latter's body a sort of existential stasis. Not only it is preserved young after so many centuries, but his stomach contains fresh medieval food and his lungs are impolluted of modern contamination.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Janus, the god of two faces, just like he passed from being God's Messiah to Satan's one.
    • Caleb's name in Hebrew means "devoted", reflecting his devotion to Satan.
    • Marie is French for "Mary", as in the Virgin Mary, and like her, she plays the role to save the world.
    • Same with her superior Crossman or "Cross Man".
  • No Ontological Inertia: Caleb's first body starts to turn old after it dies.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Gaal-Ham-Gaal was this many times.
  • Sequel Hook: Carzo is still possessed by Caleb and the Cross of the Poor is still active.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Forensic technician Mancuso's surname, the setting of Parks's home in Pittsburg, the finding of a new gospel with a truer story of Jesus which threatens the Church, and Carzo being a miracle-specialized priest who travels to Brazil (along with a Brazilian priest being named Alame[i]da) are all references to the 1999 Religious Horror film Stigmata.
    • The Black Smoke of Satan comes from a throwaway comment made in real life by Pope Paul VI on June 29, 1972 that there might be a Satanic cult inside the church ("from some crack the black smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God"). In the book, this is proven true.
    • Gillian Ray, a serial killer encountered in the past by one of the lead characters, is an unsubtle reference to 15th century serial killer Gilles de Rais.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Crossman seems to wear shades at all times. A flashback has him wearing them in a party, which is presumably hosted at night.

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