Kathleen Kaufman’s novel The Son of Abraham was sent to me as an ARC by Turner Publishing way back before its publication in October of 2021. When I first received and read it, I didn’t initially realize that it’s actually the third book of a trilogy called Diabhal (the first two books were 2019’s Diabhal and 2020’s Sinder). While I’m sure that reading the other two books in the series prior to this one would have deepened the experience considerably, I will also note that I didn’t have a hard time following the novel at all; it works just fine as a standalone story, though I would advise reading the first two books just for the complete picture, and I do intend to do that one of these days, because I did enjoy this quite a bit. If you’re a fan of massive, world-ending, apocalyptic fiction, then this is a book you’ll probably want to put in your TBR pile.
At the beginning of the story, we’re essentially jumping back and forth between several individuals and groups of people in Los Angeles. Because I haven’t read the first two Diabhal books yet, I’m not certain if these are characters that were established previously, but it doesn’t matter that much because pretty much none of them are going to make it. All of these characters are either trying to get out of LA or resigning themselves to their fates, because it’s been discovered that a cult called the Sons of Abraham, who are attempting to bring about the end of the world, has planted numerous explosive devices underneath the city that will basically level the whole shebang, and additionally fuck up everything within a 100-mile radius. The authorities only caught wind of the plan after it was too late to evacuate the residents.
So after this horrific tragedy that killed hundreds of thousands of people and wiped Los Angeles right off the map, we jump ahead ten years. The head of the Sons of Abraham cult, a man named Alan Robertson, was convicted for the terrorist attack and is sitting in federal prison. The strange thing about that whole situation, though, is that his daughter Esther, who was only fifteen when the LA attack happened, was warned by her father to get out of the city, and so was spared the devastation. Alan didn’t warn anyone else—including his wife and his other daughter, who were killed—so in the aftermath, Esther was constantly hounded by the media, who suspected that she knew more about her father and the cult’s plans than she was letting on. Esther, who maintained that she didn’t have any idea why she was spared, grew up in a group home after the tragedy, but is now in her mid-20s and has had to change her name in order to have some sort of a normal life.
A hotshot newscaster named Cooper Carlson (heh) has managed to track her down, though. Cooper, it turns out, was a local reporter at the time of the attack, but because he was in the right place at the right time and covered it nationally, he’s gone on to become something of a media celebrity, and the go-to news guy for anything having to do with Sons of Abraham. After finding Esther, he convinces her to do an interview that will hopefully clear the air with the public over whether she knew what her nutcase father was up to or not.
The rest of the book follows Esther and Cooper as they try to unravel the rest of Alan’s plan, and figure out why he only spared his one daughter. Other attacks begin to occur, but they’re all possibly masquerading as natural disasters like earthquakes and shit, so no one’s entirely sure if the cult members are pulling them off somehow, or if it’s all just a coincidence. There are also hints that Alan might have some supernatural and/or demonic powers of some kind, and there’s also another kind of supernatural force that seems to be at odds with Alan’s plan, or maybe not?
As I mentioned, this was a fast-paced, straightforward, Armageddon-type story that stood on its own, even if you hadn’t read the first two novels in the series (as I didn’t). There were a few things that I deduced were referring back to the earlier books, such as flashbacks to Esther as a kid and a tragedy that happened in the early version of the cult, which was called the Society at Sinder Avenue. There was enough context provided that you could get the gist of what happened back then, though I would suggest reading all three of the Diabhal books in order if you really want the fullest appreciation of all the plot threads.
If you love stories where thousands of people get horribly annihilated in enormous, catastrophic disasters of all kinds, or stories about apocalyptic cults, then this will be right in your wheelhouse.
Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends.