The Devil's Claw.
Lara Dearman; THE DEVIL'S CLAW; Crooked Lane Books (Fiction: Mystery) 26.99 ISBN: 9781683314561
Byline: Benjamin Welton
This murder mystery exudes slow dread -- a perfect novel for a cold night in dark winter.
Lara Dearman's The Devil's Claw is a terrifying story centered on an islander who finds herself in the middle of a gruesome murder spree.
An excellent balance of the macabre and the mirthful, the novel takes place on the British island of Guernsey. This foggy Channel island has a unique history, including its occupation by the Nazis, which lasted from 1940 until 1945.
That dark history returns when Jennifer Dorey, a former Londoner who has come home, stumbles upon a string of mutilated bodies that bear the hallmarks of malefic rituals. Dorey is joined in her investigation by Detective Chief Inspector Michael Gilbert and a cast of Guernsey oddballs, including a gang of goths and at least one ex-soldier who is part of a right-wing movement to protect Guernsey's national identity.
The writing is smooth, and the story is expertly told in terms of pacing and atmosphere. From the first, The Devil's Claw presents disquieting scenery, an environment where conspiracies are real and local villages hide unbelievable secrets.
Dorey is an excellent lead. The down-to-earth reporter who still lives with her mum is a believable everywoman. Likewise, Gilbert is not a fey eccentric or a bitter veteran -- he is merely a thorough detective, with one foot out the door as he heads toward retirement.
The plot is pure potboiler, with time used to its advantage. It is not always a linear narrative, and digressions into the past -- both recent and dusty -- allow the story's true horror to unfold slowly.
The Devil's Claw is nightmarish; it's a perfect novel for a cold night in dark winter. This murder mystery exudes slow dread and often feels more like a horror tale than a detective story. It is not just the butchered corpses that are fear-inducing, it is also the madness that lurks in the hearts of ordinary-looking people, and the implication that nowhere is safe from sin.