Pros: Great concept executed well!
Cons: Some stereotypes; a whole lot of misogyny
Rating: 4 out of 5
Terry Tyler’s The Devil You Know approaches the serial killer thriller from a new direction. In a British town, there’s a serial killer strangling prostitutes. Five people become convinced that someone they know is the killer. The reader, of course, knows it can’t be all of them. As the evidence mounts up, which suspect will prove to be the real killer? Is it Steve’s misogynistic friend Dan? Tamsin’s colleague and crush Jake? Dorothy’s civil servant son Orlando? Juliet’s abusive husband Paul? Or 15-year-old Maisie’s mother’s boyfriend Gary?
As the tale progresses and more women die, the evidence against each person becomes stronger, although in all cases there seem to be extenuating details as well. All five people stay out late for dubious or false reasons. Paul seems to have all the personality traits of a serial killer as revealed by the experts. Dan has been accused of attempted rape, and Steve’s not so sure he believes Dan’s side of things. Tamsin seems obsessed with Jake, so it’s easy to believe that in her anger at his brush-off after their one night stand, she might be reaching to declare him the killer. Orlando seems like a fairly sensitive man, but he is an adult who shows no sign of moving out of his mother’s house, and he’s been lying about where he’s spending his time. Maisie thinks the photo-fit looks like Gary, but is he really a killer, or is he just your run-of-the-mill philanderer taking advantage of her mother?
Some of the characters are a bit on the stereotypical side. I will say that Orlando and his mother, Dorothy, are my favorite pair of characters. They’re the least stereotypical, and have the most interesting relationship between them. Orlando is much more than the stereotype of the man who never grows up and never leaves his mother. He and his mother have sly senses of humor and a rather beautiful relationship. My least favorite character is Dan. He’s pretty much the epitome of the hard-drinking lad who thinks all girls are asking for it. I really didn’t enjoy reading through his sections, because they’re just endless litanies of misogyny. Similarly, Paul is pretty much the stereotypical abusive (yet outwardly successful and charming) husband, and his wife Juliet–for most of the book anyway–seems the typical battered woman who does everything she can to avoid placing blame on her husband. Tamsin is the ultimate portrayal of the kind of woman who becomes obsessed with a man and sees a relationship where there is none (this doesn’t excuse the fact that Jake is an asshole who takes advantage of that, of course). It just seems like the author went too far into making the suspects the “typical” range of serial killer stereotypes.
One of the things I love about this book is the little connections that emerge. You might see Dan and Steve and their friends go to a certain bar, only to hear the name of the bar repeated in another section. Some sex-trafficking Albanians play several roles in different narratives. Certain neighborhoods show up more than once. The paper that Tamsin and Jake work for gets read by several other characters. There’s a very nice interwoven tapestry of suspects, witnesses, protagonists, police, and geography.
It is a serial killer thriller. Content note for rape, murder, physical and emotional abuse, misogynistic tirades, slurs, etc.
If you’re a fan of serial killer stories, you’ll find the concept of this tale to be new, interesting, and refreshing!