Saturday, December 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Devil She Knows by Bill Loehfelm

     The reptile house. The snakes. That was what her father liked best...The snakes didn't scare her, they bored her silly. They never moved. Ever...What the hell had her father been looking at? The same snakes in the same glass boxes, every time.     Now, eighteen years later, draped over the back of the couch, her legs coiled beneath her as she gazed out the window, Maureen knew what her father had seen in those glass boxes. He'd seen himself, and the similarity didn't end with living in a box...Maureen figured both she and her mother should've spent more time looking into her father's eyes. Maybe one f the would've spotted him for the fake he was. 
     Dark, right? And that passage from The Devil She Knows by Bill Loehfelm is actually one of the more enlightening moments in the book. 
     The Devil could be the darkness inside the characters in this book. Maureen, a late twenties waitress. Amber, her mother, never moved on from being abandoned by her husband eighteen years earlier. Nat Waters, a broken down New York City Detective, who buried his regrets in his job and never looked back. Dennis, Tanya, Vic...owned by something they can no longer control. All of them broken, exhausted, tired of a life that they felt they couldn't change because of choices made long ago. 
     Or the Devil could be Francis Jordan Sebastian. The man that owned them all, in different ways and for different reasons, but owned them not the less. 
     There area lot of devils to choose from in The Devil She Knows

Bill Loehfelm
     This book was wonderfully balanced with descriptive writing, deep and complicated characters, good dialogue, and a plot that was not particularly complicated but sufficiently gritty to satisfy readers. 
     What I enjoyed the most was protagonist Maureen Coughlin. She was merely surviving, defining success as scraping by waiting tables while leading an empty life surrounded by empty people. Because she saw something she shouldn't have, something that she gladly would've forgotten, she became the focus of an evil, homicidal, man. But she took control of her life, her destiny; she decided she would no longer settle for the emptiness of just getting by. 
     Amber shot her a look. "You got nowhere else to go, so suddenly you're interested in your mother?"....     "I got a life full of strangers," Maureen said, "people I see all the time and know nothing about. I met Waters three days ago and I know more about his life than I know about yours. Why is that?" She dug her fists into her armpits. "I don't wanna be strangers, Ma. Not now. Not anymore."
    Bill Loehfelm is one of the authors I had the privilege to meet at Bouchercon 2012. It was a chance meeting, when he generously shared his table at a crowded hotel lounge. This is his third novel but the first I've read. I recently learned there will be a sequel, The Devil in Her Way. I'm looking forward to seeing how Maureen responds to a world in which she has redefined her existence. 

Loehfelm, Bill. The Devil She Knows, Sarah Crichton Books. May 24, 2011. 
  • ISBN-10: 0374136521

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