Face of the Devil

Face of the Devil

The first thing that struck me about NJ Cooper’s “Face of the Devil” was the cover. A simple and understated jacket with the solitary image of a bloodied knife, but there was something inviting about it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but one thing’s for sure, it has a rather hypnotic effect on the senses and begs you to pick it up and read. Book jackets are playing a more significant role in book selling in today’s competitive market and without doubt, an attractive book design plays a crucial part in the battle to command sales.

It is a ferociously stormy night on the Island when fifteen year old Suzie, as she hurries to board her uncle’s boat after a secret meeting with her boyfriend, is brutally stabbed to death. She is discovered by locals, held in the blood-smeared arms of Olly Matken, a schizophrenic teenager who grew up holidaying on the Island with Suzie’s family. ‘I didn’t hurt her!’ he says. ‘All I did was protect her from the devil.’ When psychologist Karen Taylor sees DCI Charlie Trench’s name flash up on her mobile phone, she knows that she ought to ignore the call, but curiosity and, although she won’t admit it, a dangerous attraction to the brooding detective, send her headlong into a deeply troubling case. Karen must decide; is Olly capable of murder? His psychologist doesn’t think so, but the boy’s own father seems to want to see his son charged. The only way to prove his innocence is to find out the identity of Olly’s devil …so long as Karen can keep the demons from her own past at bay too.

Face of the Devil” is an intriguing book; the main character is a “regular” forensic psychologist who begins to investigate the murder of teenager Suzie, or rather Olly’s part in that murder. The police are convinced of his guilt but his sanity is called into question – is he schizophrenic or is he acting? Karen Taylor is called in by DCI Charlie Trench to help secure his conviction but things – do they ever? – don’t quite turn out as easy as ABC!

Face of the Devil” is available from The Book Depository & Amazon

When I began reading the book I hadn’t expected Taylor to command such a pivotal role, given this was my introduction to NJ Cooper’s writing, but she certainly carries off her role with aplomb and a certain maverick attitude. Confused with her feelings for her boyfriend, a neurosurgeon, who is applying the matrimonial pressure of settling down and raising a family together, she has a certain fallibility to her I found endearing. She can’t quite make up her mind if he’s the one and if she’s ready to plump for the family life – this is a recurring theme throughout the book and interesting to see how her thoughts change as the case intensifies.

The narrative is sharp and what you come to expect from a seasoned author – although these days this is never a given – it reads incredibly well and flows unhindered from start to finish. Predominately told through the eyes of Karen Taylor she is supported by Charlie Trench, who plays a surprisingly supporting role in the investigation but the two work well together despite a hint of jealousy from his female colleagues!

As I mentioned earlier things are never as clear cut as authors initially make out – if they were a book would only last a chapter at most – and the mark of a good author is one who can take the obvious and turn it on its head and with the introduction of new suspects change the course of a book. “Face of the Devil” is no exception – by continually adding supporting characters to the story you, the reader, begin to question what’s put right in front of you.

An intelligently written book that entertains as well as giving an insight into the world of the forensic psychologist.

Published by Simon & Schuster “Face of the Devil” is available from The Book Depository & Amazon

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