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Black Static

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The Late Review: The Devil's Only Friend

21st Sep, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Released by Tor Books in 2015, The Devil's Only Friend is the fourth book in Dan Wells' series relating the adventures of John Wayne Cleaver, a teenage sociopath who has found a 'healthy' outlet for his urges in killing demons, and follows directly on from I Don't Want To Kill You, which I reviewed on Tuesday. A warning to those who need to know - this review contains spoilers regarding the plot of the previous book.

John is now a member of an FBI sanctioned team of demon hunters under the command of Linda Ostler. His friend Brooke, who was possessed by the demon Nobody, is in a perilous mental state but has access to Nobody's memories and can give the team guidance on where to find the demons and how to fight them. The team are now in Fort Bruce, where Brooke has identified two demons, or Withered as they refer to themselves. While she is kept in a mental facility, the rest of the team stalk the demons and try to figure out their weaknesses. But things get complicated when more of the Withered arrive in town, led by a cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John and his team suddenly find themselves out of their depth.

Like its predecessors, this book is a gripping and compelling read. The revelation of the true nature of the demons/Withered is a masterly stroke that enables the author to strike out in a new and original direction. Each Withered has his or her own powers, weaknesses and identity, with the apparently omniscient Hunter/Rack a particularly sinister and fully rounded manifestation of the kind. I loved this larger than life villain and his interaction with John, the way in which he plays the team and then brings down the roof on their heads. John's growing maturity plays counterpoint to his flippant nature, while he dreams of killing members of the team in horrible ways as a safety vent for his inner rage. The team themselves are equally interesting - psychiatrist and profiler Trujillo, tech genius Nathan, ex-cop Kelly, ex-forces Diana, and the monstrous Potash, who isn't so different from John, but kills with license rather than for the satisfaction of any inner need. Each of them has secrets that both make them eligible for the team and at the same time vulnerable. Brooke is a tragic figure, broken mentally by her ordeal in the previous book, but at the same time a conduit to the enemy, similar in a way to Renfield/Mina Harker in Dracula. There are moral complications as well, as with John's attitude to the demon Elijah, the recognition that the Withered can be good people too. Oh, and John acquires a dog, which provides him another route to reader sympathy. There are two more volumes in the series, which I hope to read if I can ever find them in an affordable format (the copies available on Amazon cost far more than I'm willing to pay barring lottery wins, and there don't seem to be any e-editions). I love this series and wholeheartedly recommend it.





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