Publication Date: September 21, 2012
In All the Devil’s Creatures by J.D. Barnett, a young girl is lynched and nailed to a tree in the bayou, and her body is staged so that the motive is clear. Her death was a result of the color of her skin. Is that really the reason or will her work with a withdrawn and troubled environmental lawyer turn out to play a bigger role? What did she find? Are there greater forces at work plotting the next death and the next? All the Devil’s Creatures is a legal thriller with a paranormal flavor.
Barnett’s writing style is wonderfully intense making All the Devil’s Creatures a deliciously creepy read. The novel is set in 2005, not long after Hurricane Katrina and centers around a polluted bayou and locals suing a subtly named Texronco (and oil company) to clean up the devastation. Locals are seeing strange things that they’ve never seen before in the bayou and fearing for their safety.
Barnett jumps right into the action on the site of the staged body by introducing us to Sheriff Seastrunk, a down-home Texas boy who has been in his position for 40+ years having left law school and taken over when his father, the previous Sheriff, died. We know out of the gate that this is a man who is deeply moral and who will try to do what’s right and best for everyone around. Peppering his speech, and that of the other characters is an authentic southern dialogue that rings true to the ear. In the scene in which Seastrunk meets environmental lawyer, Geoff Waltz, their conversation rings very true to the pattern of speech. Seastrunk makes an observation, and Geoff breaks out with a “Well I’ll be.” (Location 310 Kindle Edition).
Geoff Waltz, to some readers, may seem a bit too much. He’s a troubled man. He’s a chronic drinker and embroiled in a case that he believes is a losing venture. When his consultant’s employee is killed, all he can think is that the case will now be postponed forever. He’s more than willing to latch on to the idea that this is a hate crime so that it doesn’t in any way impact his case. A funny thing happens though, Geoff, mirroring the audience, gets pulled into the weirdness of the case. We start to see that not only is there more to this story, there’s more to Geoff. I cannot express to your readers how delightful this story was, as it developed. All the Devil’s Creatures is a story with layers blossoming, and each more intriguing than the next.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plotline, but Barnett’s progression was well thought out and crafted. I was not surprised to read in the author biography that Barnett is an environmental lawyer. All the Devil’s Creatures has points that ring of authenticity and a greater knowledge of the topic than the average person might possess.
Readers who normally will shy away from paranormal need not fear. There are no vampires or werewolves in All the Devil’s Creatures. The end result of this novel is a legal thriller in a rural setting with a hint of the paranormal. All the Devil’s Creatures was a truly great read and I look forward to more from J.D. Barnett.
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