Gail Chandler is a crime fiction writer, concentrating on true crimes. He has had success and a film adaptation from one of his previous books called The White Witch. Now he is spending a deal of time trying to work out what led up to another incident in which a man and woman were killed.
Bestselling author and singer-songwriter of US indie band Mountain Goats John Darnielle has created a thorough investigator, convinced that the only way he can really work out what happened is to move into the house in which the murder took place years earlier.
The book is being marketed as a horror story, though it reads just as convincingly as an ordinary crime thriller.
The White Witch murder was particularly gruesome, involving the dismembering of the two high school seniors who were the victims. The killer was their teacher, a popular member of their school staff who had paid particular attention to the work and future of one of the victims. She was obviously demonised in the media when the story came out and in his writing of what happened Chandler concentrates on presenting the perpetrator as human.
Many years later, while he is working on the Devil House story, the mother of one of the victims of the White Witch killing gets in touch with him to say that he had been unfair on her son and explains to him what the events did to her and her family. This seems to have an effect on how he will deal with other killing.
So, what we have here are two brutal murders, the story of each forming interlocking sections of the narrative. It seems that the book is being marketed as a horror story, with implications of satanism, though it reads just as convincingly as an ordinary crime thriller. The victims in the second case are the landlady of the house in which the killing happens and a man come to look it over with the intention of buying.
The problem is that the house was previously a porn outlet - this was in the days before the internet made such places redundant.
The landlady kept increasing the rent until the proprietor closed the door, leaving behind the various videos and magazines expected in such places. It was then occupied at evenings and weekends by some kids from the local high school. They are artistic and not really interested in porn, but used the various images in the products of the store to create an impression of a place with devil worship of some kind.
So when the landlady and her potential client are found dead - killed by a sword - the media delight in telling their own version of what happened, the more gruesome the better. The book tells who the killer was, but then seems to back-pedal towards the end, so that the reader is not quite sure.
The setting for the story is the San Francisco Bay area, in particular the town of Milpitas, too small to have a fully-functioning police investigating unit. The writing is polished, and once you are through slow-moving and not obviously relevant opening pages, you will be hooked.
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