9781491711835_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Mel Taylor is a genealogist who has anything but a normal career and past. This abnormal past that Mel can never quite escape includes the fact that he is really ninety-five years old vs. the forty-four year old that everyone in his life really thinks that he is. The year is 2011 and Mel survived World War II, but he did not survive the memories and haunting images that accompanied his life then. The time travel for Mel was possible thanks to his possession of a holy relic known as the sapphire staff. The staff may be hidden in Mel’s office, his true age concealed, but no one is ever completely free from the past or the secrets that it contains.

Mel finds all of this out when his friend Joseph passes his number along to a man who is desperate to locate his missing son. Mel is reluctant at first, but finally decides to help the man out. When the past begins to unfold through confirmed suspicions and the research of Mel’s assistant Emily, it seems that the Nazis of Mel’s World War II past may in fact be in the same situation he is in. And, they may not only be connected to the disappearance of the young boy in question, but they are also hot on Mel’s tail. When Mel begins digging more deeply, his research takes him to the cornfields of Iowa and quickly puts everyone that he cares about in deep danger. Overcoming his own fears, his demons of the past and embracing the power of the sapphire staff seem to be the only way that Mel can beat his old foes and their very old game. While the time travel aspects of the novel are a bit far fetched, the story contains modern twists that make the time travel only a part of the story, rather than the entire premise.

Mel is an easily relatable character and one that Cynthia Sens makes very easy to root for. His character is a bit guarded though and his true emotion is a bit hard to pick through at times. There is to be more books in the Sapphire Staff Series and hopefully Mel will continue to unfold in these following novels. The end of the story was dramatic, but pieced together neatly and allowed for a seamless transition for the rest of the series. I do wish, however, that Joseph and Emily were a bit more developed in the story. They were main players and were very active in the story, but there didn’t seem to be much to them. Joseph had an interesting back story and was a character that was also easy to warm up to so more development for him would have really made The Devil’s Playground shine. I would be interested in reading the other books in the series in order to see how Sens continues the story, particularly with the recognition of Mel from someone very close to his past and deeply entwined in his present.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Cynthia Sens. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.