This book was reviewed via Netgalley
The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias is a brilliant series of nested stories recounting two generations of one young woman’s family. The mother who disappeared for decades, only to turn up dead in Europe. The two orphans raised by their grandma when their mother vanishes. The history of the Devil’s Bible. Three stories and countless lives tied together by one elusive, powerful document.
The first story follows Siobhan, elder daughter of Denise Russo. After her mother’s death, she embarks on a journey to Spain, where her mother had lived in self-exile as Sister Benedictine. There, Siobhan acquires a book her mother had written about the circumstances of her life.
Into this, in a brand-new voice and tone and style, we follow her mother’s confessions of terrible crimes, the tearing treachery of close betrayal, and a deal brokered for vengeance. A third layer threads through Denise’s Confession, telling the history of Armaud Almaric and the creation of the Devil’s Bible. Yet another tone and style make up this innermost story.
I love that Gracias utilised three different tones/styles for each of the nested stories, making them unique in themselves. Unlike many books with nested levels, or A plot and B plot, I enjoyed all three levels, looking forward to each change. Usually I have one storyline I look forward to, and the others I simply tolerate. Not here! Description flows well, often in a lazy pleasing fashion, such as the one below-
“It is the prerogative of night, when thoughts, like relentless waves, break on the impressionable sands of the mind.”
Many points in this tale gave me pause to think, most often about the truly despicable depths to which humanity can sink. Denise’s ordeal at the hands of her so-called friends made me feel physically ill. People can be so vile to one another. Many moons ago I trained to do forensics anthropology. I wasn’t able to pursue that career goal as planned, yet I have many times found myself grateful for that fact. I would have burned out long ago. Denise’s story brought a lot of those memories back full force.
Denise’s story takes a turn for the bizarre that briefly left me wondering if she were perhaps schizophrenic, and that it passed on to the elder daughter. It was a nice theory while it lasted, but later evidence seems to have put paid to it. There’s no overt horror. Even the Devil is a gentleman. There terror generated by the human element, and plenty of psychological suspense to keep the reader guessing. There’s a subtleness to this story, with hints of Stephen King’s Needful Things, and a healthy dose of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and The X-Files.
My biggest qualm is the ending. Two of the three story threads resolved, but Siobhan’s wasn’t. That thread just begs a sequel and I really want to know what happens next! Does she accept her mother’s challenge, or turn her back on it? If she does pursue things, how far will the red monks go to stopping
🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻 Highly recommended if you like historical fiction, books like The Historian, Shutter Island, or books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, or David Gibbons. Also, if you enjoyed the shows/movies The Exorcist, Premonition, or The X-Files