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The Devil's Footprints / Amanda Stevens

thDevilsFootprintsCover.jpgMIRA Books / March 2008
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno

Thriller writer Amanda Stevens - who branched out from a successful line of Harlequin Intrigue romantic suspense novels with last year’s creepy The Dollmaker - makes a welcome return to bookshelves with The Devil’s Footprints.

Sarah DeLaune is a New Orleans tattoo artist haunted by the unsolved murder of her sister, Rachel, fourteen years ago. Although she has always believed the murderer to be one Ashe Cain, a secret childhood friend who appeared only to the troubled teenaged Sarah and who conveniently disappeared on the night of the gruesome murder, a string of present-day homicides has the past (literally) bleeding into the present. Reluctantly, Sarah agrees to examine the crime scenes at the bequest of her ex-boyfriend, Lieutenant Sean Kelton, since the bodies are mysteriously tattooed post-mortem. But when a telltale sign from the past is found at the murder scenes, the similarities to Rachel’s killing make Sarah quickly realize that the murderer has returned to finish some unfinished business.

Stevens imbues Footprints with the same tight plotting that made Dollmaker so suspenseful a read, and adds an ensemble cast chock full of red herrings to skillfully up the mystery quotient. She ably takes on a flawed heroine in Sarah, who is so paralyzed by the uncertainties of her past that she finds herself sleepwalking through life - reliant on prescription medication and unable to maintain a serious relationship. Indeed, deft characterization is one of Stevens’ strong suits, as she ably proves in even the most peripheral of characters. Take, for example, this concise character sketch of Dr. Frank Canard, Orleans Parish coroner:

He was tall, wiry and grizzled, a once ruggedly handsome man with the nose and dogged determination of a prize fighter and the dignified demeanor of old Southern gentry. Even up to his elbows in blood and gore, he never lost that air of elegance and refinement that made him at home in some of the most fashionable salons in the state.

Stevens also adds a bit of the supernatural to the proceedings, with an urban legend dating back to 1922 when greedy oil drillers allegedly punched a hole (literally) straight down to hell and unleashed the devil himself who made his presence known with cloven footprints tattooed across the Arkansas farm near where the ill-fated DeLaune family would settle seventy years later. The author wisely keeps this element in check, more background music used to set a mood than an actual plot device, and the reader is never led to believe that the murders are the devil’s work in any literal sense.

With a narrative that’s gradually pulled tighter and tighter like a rubber band stretched to its limits, The Devil’s Footprints will thrill with its breakneck pacing, chill with its bloodcurdling undertones, and surprise with its finale twist.

Purchase Amanda Stevens’ The Devil’s Footprints.

Watch the Book Trailer here.

Posted on Friday, May 2, 2008 at 10:52AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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