Book Reviews

Book Review- The Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea

This book was reviewed via Netgalleydownload (2)


The Jersey Devil was my first introduction to Shea’s work and I quite enjoyed it! I’ve an interest in cryptozoology, and find the Jersey Devil among the more interesting of the beasties out there. No trope is this one, unlike the vampires, werewolves, and zombies that make their tired ways across the pages of contemporary fantasy/horror.


The story starts five years in the past, with an apparent homicide. Where better to hide a body than deep in the primaeval Pine Barrens? Four enter, and none leave. Flash-forward to the present day and all evidence of this visit has been lost to the forest. Present day, and reports of Jersey Devil sightings are becoming more prevalent. This comes to the attention of one Sam Willet, who has a decided interest in this elusive cryptid. His wife was marked by the devil, a mark passed on to children and grandchildren, in the form of a reddened birthmark the shape of a hoof. For the sake of his family, Sam wants to learn what the mark means.


Joining the Willets for their monster hunt is Norm, a well-known cryptozoologist. Almost as soon as they get into the Barrens, the group starts experiencing activity. For Norm, it’s an unprecedented breakthrough. Usually, his job is all about ‘which natural animal has been misidentified?’ Now, he gets to track and observe a bona fide cryptid, the ultimate chimera critter with traits equine, draconic, and primate.


Things are quick to go south, though. The Jersey Devil isn’t like any animal of the natural world. It’s an otherworldly beast with a cold intelligence and a penchant for toying with its food. A man-made cocktail of hazardous chemicals make this lethal creature that much more dangerous. For Sam and his family, the need to bring the Devil to ground has always been a driving force in their lives. Now it is an imperative, in order to protect the citizens of New Jersey.


I love that Shea used both a scientific component and the legend behind the Jersey Devil. His singular, surprising twist made for a truly terrifying tale of the devil in the dark. The story flowed well, and I particularly enjoyed some of the descriptions. There’s a great bit- ‘…emerging from the soil like she was in a cheap zombie movie.’- near the beginning, in the prologue, that had me in stitches. I read it at just the right moment in my sleep deprivation to find it hilarious. And, of course, it was quite appropriate for the genre. Shea also paints eerie, vivid descriptions of the Jersey Devil himself, and the forests he calls home.


???? Recommended for those who enjoy horror stories involving cryptids, especially stories involving the Jersey Devil, or stories by such notables as Dean Koontz, or Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Also, if you like shows like The X-Files, Grimm, or Supernatural.

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