The Devil She Knows by Bill Loehfelm

When your girl-on-a-dark-street alarm goes off, you listen. Every damn time. – Maureen Coughlin

It’s only a few pages into author Bill Loehfelm’s newest book, The Devil She Knows, that Maureen Coughlin’s girl-on-a-dark-street alarm goes off, and it keeps ringing for 300+ pulse-pounding pages.

Twenty-nine year old Maureen is slogging her way through life working never-ending shifts as a waitress at The Narrows, a wannabe upscale bar located in a rough part of Staten Island. She knows if she doesn’t do something to make a major change in her life soon she’s gonna end up a “lifer” on the bar scene, a fate she’s desperate to avoid.

She soon has more to worry about than long hours and bad tips, however, when leaving the bar in the wee hours of the morning she inadvertently stumbles upon the bar manager, Dennis, giving oral sex to local hot-shot and candidate for Senate Frank Sebastian. Quickly understanding that what she’s seen puts her in an awkward position – and one Sebastian may find to be a threat – Maureen assures both men she has no intention of breathing a word of it to anyone.

And she wouldn’t have, until she learns the next day that Dennis has been found dead on the railroad tracks not too far from The Narrows. Though the police are inclined to chalk it up as either an accident or suicide, Maureen can’t help but wonder if something more sinister happened. When she returns home to find her apartment has been broken into Maureen becomes convinced Sebastian killed Dennis to keep him quiet, and that she’s next.

The Devil She Knows is one of the most viscerally intense reads you will ever experience, and I can already say without a doubt this book will be on my “Best Of 2011” list come the end of the year. Every aspect of this book is tight, seamless, smart, and above all else, believable. If you’ve ever doubted the ability of male authors to write convincing female leads, please, read this book and let Bill Loehfelm blow all your preconceived notions right the hell out of the water. Maureen Coughlin is an amazingly well crafted creation. As a small, hot tempered female myself, I can tell you that the conflicting feelings of blood-boiling anger and spine-chilling vulnerability Maureen have in the face of the threat of confrontation with a large male are spot-on. And when push finally comes to shove, she behaves as neither a shrinking violet nor a feminized Rambo, but as a person pushed into a corner they are willing to do whatever they have to to fight their way out of.

Of course your hero can only be as heroic as your villain is evil, and Frank Sebastian is one truly evil son of a bitch. But a smooth one. Well connected, Sebastian is a former police officer who uses his relationships in the department to his advantage causing Maureen to question who, if anyone, in law enforcement she can trust. His celebrity as the leading senatorial candidate also works in his favor, as his polished looks and well practiced glad-handing have virtually everyone convinced he’s one small step from sainthood. Which make the glimpses behind his public mask Maureen sees all the more chilling as she comes to understand he is an incredibly warped man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants…her dead.

The Devil She Knows is a tour de force tale of power: the lengths to which people will go to obtain and keep it, as well as the lengths people with nothing left to lose will go to fight it. If you’ve never heard of Bill Loehfelm before, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. I guarantee you will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

The Devil She Knows is available from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (ISBN: 978-0374136529).

Bill Loehfelm is the author of three novels, most recently The Devil She Knows from Sarah Crichton Books/FSG. His first two novels are Fresh Kills, winner of the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and Bloodroot. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, he moved to New Orleans in 1997 where he now lives with his wife, the writer AC Lambeth. Loehfelm’s work has also appeared in the NOLAfugees Press anthologies Year Zero, Life in the Wake, and Soul is Bulletproof. To learn more about Bill, visit his website.

The Devil She Knows was one of my Top 10 Reads of 2011

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  • Sabrina Ogden

    June 10, 2011 - 12:53 pm

    And your ability to entice the world to read is why I love you and think you are the best monkey in the entire world… Love this review and I really, really can’t wait to read it. I know I come across all sickly sweet and stuff on twitter, but when you push me, I really don’t have a problem pushing back.

  • Josh Stallings

    June 10, 2011 - 12:29 pm

    Another stellar review, and what sounds like a gripping novel. Damn you, you keep adding and adding to my must read pile.

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