Review: The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

We’ve all done it, or at least I hope we have: a bump is heard somewhere in the house and suddenly we are expecting a strange individual to attack us. Or maybe he/she is hiding and waiting. All that matters is that all the lights are now on in the house, and we’ve maybe taken the broom out of the closet as a potential weapon; all of this in broad daylight.

Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s novel, The Devil You Know, focuses on fear and obsession. It is also an amazing analysis on how the mind can take that fear and make it fester and grow until it becomes uncontrollable.

In 1982, at the age of 10, Evie Jones’ best friend is murdered. The culprit is known to the police but disappears and is never apprehended. Fast forward 11 years, and Evie is now a reporter working in the Toronto area. She lands the dream research job of covering the Paul Bernardo investigation, as he’s just been arrested and searches are being conducted on his residence. As Evie begins to get further into the investigation, she finds herself being haunted by her friend’s murder. She soon finds herself conducting her own investigation, making connections and theories that get more and more complicated as her fear/obsession becomes uncontrollable. To make matters worse, she has seemingly attracted the attention of a peeping tom. Is this her friends’ murderer coming back to exact revenge, or just a coincidence?

Devil+You+KnowSeriously, look at this cover. Can you imagine seeing this outside your window *shudders*

The first few pages of this novel absolutely terrified me, because it was a great showpiece on how finding someone watching you makes you feel. De Mariaffi immediately throws you into a situation in which fear quickly takes over. It’s a great way to start a novel, instantly grabbing the attention of the reader. The novel then quickly slows down. I didn’t quite realize it, but it was building up tension. It was just so subtle. I guess I realized how this book was actually affecting me when, literally, a bump in the night sent me flying from my bed and to my front door looking for the ‘intruder’. I take my hat off to de Mariaffi for this reason. Not for scaring me, but for making me connect and act like the main character. Evie’s fear was unbeknownst to herself, but apparent to everyone else. She thought she was making valid connections and discoveries. She thought she had everything under control, that she wasn’t letting herself be carried away. So, de Mariaffi, thank you for scaring the crap out of me in the subtlest way possible. Kudos to you! This wasn’t fear, as in horror movie/slasher terror, but legitimate fear of what is out there. Your head is making you jump at every creak in the wood, but you cannot turn away because of the underlying obsession of finding the truth.

De Mariaffi best illustrates this topic in the following quote:

You think about how scared you can make yourself at night on a dark, lonely street. Those girls stepped down off the bus and walked home listening for every little sound behind them. There’s a way of listening in the dark that’s so intense for girls. You can feel the inside of your ears (The Devil You Know, p. 86).

Overall, The Devil You Know wasn’t your average thriller. It wasn’t fast paced; it wasn’t overly exciting with twists, turns and shocks. But it was effective. De Mariaffi’s writing is simple and to the point. She scares you, and you don’t even realize it. The ending was fairly anti-climatic but this is the first time in which that wasn’t a disappointment. The ending wasn’t a big deal to me, because the novel was not about the ending, it was about the journey. I know that sounds a bit clichéd but it is the truth. This novel could have ended in any way and my opinion would have been the same.

As a side note: it was also totally awesome to have my hometown mentioned and become part of the story. Northern Ontario got some spotlight, thank you de Mariaffi!