Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by its two authors – Wayne Williams and Darren Allan – in exchange for an honest review.
So, here’s a question: how do you make the reader feel for the Biblical figure whose name has become synonymous with the term ‘betrayer’? I’m not a Bible scholar by any means, but I’d imagine Judas Iscariot would be a pretty irredeemable character.
Just doing a bit of background research on Judas (and hefting out the stupidly expensive Bible I had to buy for my English Literature course even though we only studied the Book of Genesis [/rant]), there’s a few conflicting accounts on what happened to him after he betrayed Christ. Some accounts posit that he committed suicide, and others have Judas dying via some form of disembowelment. I won’t spoil which account IKWYDLS follows, but it is suitably horrid, following the tone of this book.
Williams and Allan, however, go for the 1990s horror solution – Judas gets threatening notes and trophies sent to him after Jesus’ death. The film that the title of this book is based on (I Know What You Did Last Summer) isn’t particularly great, and is rather cheesy. I do appreciate the pun, though. The combination of Biblical story plus ridiculous, over the top horror movie elements works quite well, oddly enough. The authors really go all out in depicting the gore – I was in the bathtub whilst reading the chapter in which some characters are brutally slaughtered (drowned, dismembered, boiled alive) in a bath house, and I could feel my skin crawling. Needless to say, I hopped out of the tub posthaste.
I’m also particularly squeamish about eyes and teeth, so when some other characters had them, uh, removed… it was time for me to put the book down for a moment. (This is the girl who has no problem watching Hannibal whilst eating her dinner.) I shan’t bore you with more times in which I was freaked out and had to put the book down for a moment, but needless to say, it happened a lot.
I have two particular qualms with I Know What You Did Last Supper, and while they weren’t deal breakers for me, they did impact on my enjoyment somewhat. Firstly, Judas isn’t exactly… very interesting to read. I mean, I get that he’s supposed to be suffering horribly from guilt, and walking around day to day in a stupor, but I could never quite sense anything more than that. His reactions aren’t quite what you’d expect from somebody who’s been sent such grisly messages and has also been told that he’s going to be bumped off very soon if he doesn’t watch his back. Sure, he may be nursing a huge guilty complex, but Judas’ fear and paranoia in regards to the murders are so understated that he just seems to shrug them off.
The second qualm I have is with the writing. Fine, I’m not the most brilliant wordsmith in the world, but the writing just doesn’t really do much. The prose is very simple and just winds up being ‘Judas did this, went there, reacted to this…’ It’s not a bad thing; not every author should aspire to writing great character pieces, sweeping landscapes, or quotable, but I feel that more could have been done with the description and flow of the story.
Something else I wasn’t a hundred per cent was the climax being a little bit rushed. The pacing is done well, and everything hurtles to this huge climax and then… just peters out. When Judas has to sneak around Caiaphas’ house a second time to try and get back the silver, and/or blackmail him, it’s actually really tense. As is the scene where Judas is creeping through Lazarus’ house and is suddenly discovered, so has to get out of there sharpish. However, between these and other key scenes, it can be a bit of a slog to get through, and I will admit to skim reading some portions.
It’s just a shame that the third act didn’t keep my attention as much, but I did really enjoy the twist ending. I had my theories about who the killer would actually be, and when it was revealed – about twenty pages towards the end – it was pretty plausible. An “ohhh!” moment, one could say.
I also loved how Caiaphas – the main antagonist – gets his dues at the end of the book. That was pretty funny. “In exchange for me keeping my mouth shut about your crimes, I’m going to knock you off your high perch and put you where you belong; on a farm, with like-minded animals.” Oh snap. That was a great way to end the book.
Speaking of the end of the book, the epilogue! I laughed at that pretty hard. Matthew is busy writing the Gospel, and asks one of the characters about more details pertaining to Judas and his sudden, mysterious death. Since Matthew can’t get a straight answer from her, he just sighs and goes: “Fine, I’ll just put he went off and did it. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. It’s not like anyone will read this anyway, is it?” “I’m not so sure.” Hah.
The novel itself is engaging, and while it wasn’t as immersive or as exploratory of Judas’ character as I had hoped for, and had some dull moments, it was a great read, filled with toe-curling horror scenes and could be very entertaining. 4/5.