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American Devil
by Oliver Stark

Release Date: 19th Apr 2010
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 978 0 7553 7008 5
RRP: £19.99

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Fastidiously written debut crime thriller with a compelling narrative...


Having a crime thriller featuring a dysfunctional detective is hardly ground-breaking, so with a sigh of resignation we delved into American Devil and discovered that old doesn’t necessarily mean dull.

Detective Tom Harper is on the cusp of losing everything. His wife has walked out of his life, he’s been suspended for breaking his superior officer’s jaw and his only chance of redemption comes about because a seriously twisted sociopath is on the loose in New York; and even redemption comes with a clause – in this case, requisite psych evaluation and cognitive work on that temper of his.

Taking his inspiration from cult classic: The Silence of the Lambs, instead of making a woman suit made from human skin; Stark’s killer is intent on creating a sculpture of a woman – using actual bodily parts he’s cultivated from his victims. The title itself is as near to American Psycho as you can legally get – and there is a sense of familiarity, whereby the killer is enthralled by the need to destroy these women in a punitive manner. His victims have, in his eyes, fallen from grace – they are less than his expectations and do not live up to their socially-projected selves.

But this isn’t a slasher novel – there are disturbing scenes, sure, but not relayed in graphic detail. Indeed, American Devil is well written, paced steadily with a climactic finish and chock full of thoughtfully crafted characters. And whilst, you may think on the surface the preambles are overly familiar; the only contempt you will feel is for the sociopath, fictional though he is. Stark delivers an aptly stark portrayal of the modern-day psychopath; drawing on those good old fundamental ideals as religion, love and betrayal. If this is how Stark starts out - we're positively salivating for second helpings.


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