Dr. Hanley offers us another novel with deep Catholic themes wound through the fabric of a very interesting and exciting novel. The Beast with Seven Heads is at times very exciting, at times very haunting, but never disappointing.
After a mysterious murder takes place at Monongahela College, Professor Bill Gavin becomes the improbable sleuth after an interview by Detective Peters thrusts Prof. Gavin into a murder investigation. At first, Prof. Gavin investigates to clear his own name. But soon, Prof. Gavin becomes engulfed in a battle that involves far more than false accusations. He uncovers a network of professors and others who were part of a Satanic cult that were taken to the extremes of Satanic worship.
In that context, Dr. Hanley explores the world of demonic possession and the reality of spiritual warfare in the world. As the secular Detective Peters comes to realize the spiritual battle at work, Prof. Gavin’s explanations of his experiences become more believable and become the keys to interpreting future clues. Through their collaboration, Detective Peters develop not a friendship, but a deep mutual respect. In addition to this relationship, Dr. Hanley presents several rich characters whose lives intersect in varied ways.
This book is a wonderful example of a deeply Catholic novel. The themes throughout are infused with a profound faith background and understanding of the world through a Catholic lens. Although some readers may find the notion of a expressly Catholic novel off-putting, the themes are presented so fluidly that Hanley allows the reader to dwell on the themes for as long or as little as he wants. For those who accept the invitation, the themes can be quite powerful. For instance, the description of demonic possession is chilling at times. Literally. Other themes–such as the Blessed Mother’s constant care for and protection of us–is beautifully presented as the characters rely on their faith to endure very difficult experiences.
Overall, I would recommend this book to people of all backgrounds. Those who already have a Catholic background will likely appreciate it more. However, people from any faith background will find the novel an entertaining and engaging novel. I look forward to Dr. Hanley’s next offering.