Friday, July 10, 2015

Name of the Devil by Andrew Mayne

First Sentence:  “You know what you have to do,” said the distant voice at the other end of the phone.
A church in the rural Appalachian town of Hawkton, Virginia explodes, killing five people, although the bodies can’t initially be found.  Lead investigator, Vonda Mitchum, would like to close the case quickly.  Agent Jessica Blackwood, raised in a family of master illusionists and once one herself, has a skill for looking beyond the obvious.  The further she looks, the larger becomes the scope of the case and the more dangerous; not just to her, but to a major figure on the world stage.
Reviewing this book is a decided conundrum.  There are so many really positive elements to it, yet a number of negative ones as well.  Where to begin?
There is nothing better than a book you pick up thinking you’ll only read a few pages and, before you know it, you’re 10 pages into the story.  There is no question this book begins with a bang; literally.  The opening is dramatic and startling with excellent descriptions… “A mansion that would have looked like a haunted house on a studio back lot if Grandfather hadn’t made sure to keep it well-coated in paint…  With its pointed spires and steepled roof, the mansion was more medieval Disney than tony Beverly Hills.
The character of Agent Jessica Blackwood is a particularly intriguing one.  Her past enables her to observe things others may not.  The people in her personal life are unusual, interesting, and often dangerous.  She is a character about whom you want to know more. 
The plot contains a fascinating combination of science, technology and mysticism.  Each is interesting and educational.  The story is fragmented in places—both in terms of skips in the plot and due the layout of the text, the latter being the fault of the editor/publisher, rather than the author.  It does, however, make it a bit challenging to follow, at times.  The other issue is that there is a lot of reference to the previous book and its villain.  Although it doesn’t impede the enjoyment of this case, it both makes one curious, yet you feel you know so much about the previous book, it takes away the impetuous to go back and read it for oneself.  That said, it is rather similar to an itch which must, sooner or later, be scratched.
Mayne’s observations are fascinating and thought-provoking.  The dialogue is very well done and can, at times, make one smile…”We’re going to offer him the same level of protection irregardless,” replies Ratner.  I bite my tongue at the ‘irregardless,’…Carver points out. “And Dennis, it’s ‘regardless,’ not ‘irregardless.”
Name of the Devil” is very cleverly plotted with excellent twists and “wow” moments.  There are some weaknesses, but nothing a stronger editor couldn’t resolve.  Even so, one wants to read the next book by this author.

NAME OF THE DEVIL (Susp-Agent Jessica Blackwood-US/Mexico-Contemp) – G+
Mayne, Andrew – 2nd in series
Bourbon Street Books – July 2015

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