I love a good murder, me. And there’s plenty of death, despair and destruction in this supernatural noir – suicide, murder, incest, betrayal and a bullet through the brainpan all come barrelling off the page within the opening chapters. ‘The Devil’s Lieutenant’ combines the hardboiled grit of a bare-knuckle brawl with an intriguing twist into the realm of divinity and the damned.
But this isn’t your average urban fantasy. Author Shervin Jamali doesn’t drag his protagonist into a la-la-land full of fluffy angels and pretty pixies. Instead an extremely evil and completely credible devil walks among us. Lucifer offers Michael a way to redeem his beloved wife and son from damnation in the fires of hell. Inevitably, Satan’s solution involves the kind of dirty work which leaves a soul stained for all eternity…
The result is an agreeably sophisticated story which mixes explicit ruthlessness with convoluted moral ambiguity. Is Michael really doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? Or – given that his targets are themselves the very worst beings that masquerade as human people; mass murderers, torturers and cold-blooded killers – could he actually be on the side of the angels? Will he complete the series of killings which the devil demands… or will the other guy successfully appeal to his better nature? And can you ever trust a single word said by the Prince of Lies?
Jamali has a fluid, engaging writing style that yanks you into the action. He employs a nifty flashback technique in this novella, bouncing hither and yon through Michael’s recent past, craftily revealing just enough back story amid the scenes of bone-cracking action to keep the pages turning and the narrative in full swing. The pace never falters; the tension tightens in irresistible fashion. Bad guys die, horribly while the fate of creation hangs in the balance. It all ramps up to a precisely plotted payoff – a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment.
The themes and situations in ‘The Devil’s Lieutenant’ are hardly new, but Jamali imbues them with new vitality and visceral vigour. There are a couple of moments where tighter editing might’ve improved it a touch – but overall this is a polished and assured performance from a new writer, which promises much for the future…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
‘The Devil’s Lieutenant’ by Shervin Jamali is available as an ebook for just 99p/99c
‘Stoner is a hard-ass hitman with a surprisingly philosophical side…’
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