Allen & Unwin, Australia 2021
This is a rip-snorting thriller with all the elements of a Matt Damon movie – gun toting, the drug trade, a body count to rival Midsomer Murders, conspicuous wealth, punch-ups, car chases and stuntman-worthy driving feats, conspicuous acts of daring by our hero and to some extent by our heroine, a certain chemistry between the male and female leads and a little discreet sex.
Iraq war veteran Vincent takes on a seemingly cushy job as a security guard for a wealthy supermarket chain owner (Lamar), but soon finds everything may not be as it seems when he is shown his employer’s panic room and a well -stocked armoury.
Explosive action is soon underway with multiple bloody murders including that of Lamar, upon which Vincent is taken into the employ of his erstwhile employer’s daughter, Erin, a high profile journalist who has spoken very publicly of her pro US involvement in the Iraq war stance – as protection but also as her investigative partner, because she is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of what her dad was up to that got him killed.
The trail leads our heroic protagonists through much violence and mayhem, much dispensing of rough justice to a number of very unpleasant bad folk, but also quite pleasingly through many quiet conversations about moral issues.
While the book is squarely in the escapist thriller category, it does also delve into questions of social import – the Iraq question is but one of these. There is also: the long-lasting effects in the form of PTSD for returned fighters, the drastic effects of the drug trade on society, the question of the imbalance of wealth and where this can lead people. The main characters are by no means one dimensional, certainly sympathetically drawn and engaging for the reader.
In true genre style, the bad are very bad, the good a bit more nuanced. Our need in fiction of this sort, as in the crime fiction space, for villains to be caught or to be dealt with summarily is well and truly met.
Ben Saunders writes well – The Devils We Know is a good tale, told well. It is easy to see why his works are so very popular not only here and in his native New Zealand but also in the USA (as well as the eight other countries where his work sells in translation). I’m certainly happy to escape into whatever comes next.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy and to DMCPR for facilitating my interview.