devil you know book coverReviewed by Len Steiner

Initial general comments: The Devil You Know is a debut novel by Canadian short story author and short story collection prize nominee Elisabeth de Mariaffi. The story is based loosely on the Bernardo Investigation Review – Report of Mr. Justice Archie Campbell that involved a fictional depiction of a killer of two girls that were held prisoner before their murder and that is believed to still be at large. The story revolves around the fictional obsession of a rookie crime reporter to find out the true facts of the case. There are a number of odd conclusions involved that are frustrating and hold the readers interest to a certain extent. The author does state that “the Bernardo case served as a backdrop but is not a factual description of police procedural events at the time.”

Specific comments: The author’s narrative and sentences are a little extensive at times as she inserts some extraneous details and descriptions that seemed to extend her sentences to make them too long and somewhat unrelated. One example: “There was a dull pain through my teeth and I noticed how hard I was clenching my jaw, or maybe had been all day, thinking of these things, and I worked to focus on the task at hand: the spinach I was picking over, and the promise of hot food.” Also: “So the girl’s nipples will stand out. It’s strategic. There’s a direct correlation between Tawny’s Kitaen’s nipple definition and album sales. I’m pretty sure you can read the stats on this. There’s pie charts, David said. He had the camera over one eye. It made him look squinty. I dropped my arms.”

Some sentences and descriptions contained phrases that were difficult to follow and to discern the meaning behind them. Finally (with unnecessary profanity included that might offend some readers): “Jesus Fuck! Patton tried to get a hold on the knife and I bore down with all my weight on the butt of the handle, keeping it there, hammering it into the counter. I wanted to pin him down. He jacked his other elbow up against my shoulder, sending me back a few steps.”

What is the best part of the book?: The last quote above could have been some of the best part of the book since it depicts violent action and conflict if it had been described better and the religious profanity omitted.

What are the issues to address or that will detract from the readers’ enjoyment of the book?: The book has a lot of potential and could be an excellent thriller. However, I found that I got bogged down in some of the narration and long sentences and descriptions. I even thought that some details that were introduced were totally unnecessary from a reader’s viewpoint. Many writers do employ these methods and are very successful. Hemingway used a lot of long sentences with a lot of “ands” between and we all know about his success. I also had some problems with extraneous profanity that seemed to be inserted maybe to add some spice to the book; especially when it is combined with religious names that might offend certain readers.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Len is a published writer, is retired military, and lives in Alabama. He also worked for fifteen years in government and private industry as a Senior Technical Writer. He is an active member of three writer’s organizations.

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