“The Devil and the river” – R.J. Ellory, Duo review by Karin & Nancy
On a summer evening in 1954, 16-year-old Nancy Denton walked into the woods of her hometown of Whytesburg, Mississippi. She was never seen again.
Two decades on, Sheriff John Gaines witnesses a harrowing discovery. A body has been unearthed from the riverbank, perfectly preserved, yet bearing evidence of a brutal ritualistic killing. Nancy has come home at last.
Already haunted by his experiences in Vietnam, Gaines must now find out what really happened to the beautiful and vivacious Nancy. As he closes in on the truth, Gaines is forced to not only confront his own demons, but to unearth secrets that have long remained hidden. And that truth, so much darker than he could ever have imagined, may be the one thing that finally destroys him.
Duo review at the request of De Fontein Publishers by Karin and Nancy (Team DPB)
Publishing House De Fontein made review copies available for which we thank them.
Review is put together by Patrice (Team DPB)
Translated by Nancy
The book cover
Nancy; the cover is beautiful and gives you an immediate sense of an obscure something, as you read the book, the title will come to its fullest. I give these cover 8 points.
Karin; on the cover is a girl in the bank of a river. The colors are dark, but especially the shades of blue. The title of the book is in fairly large white letters and underneath is the author’s name. However, the girl on the cover is very eye-catching which I think is also the intention. After reading the story, I find this a very fitting cover. Personally I think the cover is too busy, there is too much on it and for that reason I wouldn’t pick it up from the shelves in the bookstore. The title sounds weird to me “het kwaad en de rivier”, no idea what it stands for. I give the cover 7 points because it fits with the story.
Summary of the story
Nancy; John Gaines is the sheriff in the quiet town of Whytesburg, in the South of America, where basically no crimes are committed until somebody finds a maimed body on the bank of the river. This murder directly arises many questions as the body is found in a gruesome state. The local doctor Bob Thurston immediately recognizes Nancy Denton because she is so well conserved and she still maintains the same looks when she was a teenager.
Karin; in the mud on the bank of the river a body is discovered of the sixteen year old Nancy Denton. Twenty years ago, in 1954, she disappeared after a picnic with friends.
Nancy; John Gaines, a war veteran and who has seen the hell in Vietnam is still very overwhelmed in the way the body is maimed. This has something to do with the occult such as Voodoo.
Karin; John Gaines, a war veteran and now sheriff of Whytesburg, a little town in Mississippi, is in charge of the investigation. In his quest for the truth he stumbles across Michael Webster. Also a veteran and the great love of Nancy. He also gets to know the other friends of Nancy, including the wealthy family Wade. Their influence is very is very oppressive in this small society.
Nancy; Gaines has to make the best of what he can get and this together with his three deputies. Gaines has a feeling that haunts him and that he must sift the matter out till the very end, regardless he too will perish.
Karin; in his quest for the truth he discovers that there are other girls who went missing in the intervening period. After twenty years, he brings the past back to Whytesburg.
Nancy; Very quickly he has a suspect but if he then also gets killed, he has even less answers than he had in the beginning of the investigation. Gaines is now focusing his research and more specifically towards the Wade family. This family is very powerful and he will have a hard opponent if he wants to solve these murders.
Karin; it’s my first acquaintance with this author and the way he describes everything is very visual. While reading the book it actually crawls under your skin. The story takes place in the early seventies. While reading you have the illusion that you’re in The States where good and evil, racial hatred, Nixon and the Watergate scandal are so vivid.
Nancy; At a certain moment things happen so quickly successively that the pieces of the puzzle fall together what at first seemed like a mission impossible for Gaines.
Karin; each character in the book is described in such a way that they become real people, where you as a reader can easily identify yourself with. Ellory describes the Vietnam War from Gaines point of view so comprehensively that you as a reader get carried away in that period and that you realize how inhumane that war was fought.
Karin; There are two story lines who run closely together. On the one hand the story line of the investigation into the murder of Nancy and on the other hand the demons Gaines has to face after his homecoming from the war. There were several pieces in the book that moved me very much but this piece in particular is so significant;
“Gaines above all tried to understand how the boy he had once been was changed into the man he is now. The past was another country and when you came back, soon the realization dawned that they spoke a language you no longer self-possessed.”
Nancy; this book has three story Lines:
The first story line is of Gaines himself, war veteran and it describes his flashbacks and mental state he is in, his memories and his nightmares. He describes his military time in Vietnam as “the nine circles of hell”.
The second story line is the story of Maryanne’s point of view and her memories of that particular period Nancy disappeared.
The third story line is the story of the murder(s) that took place. These three story lines are beautifully woven together so it doesn’t disturb you while reading the book.
Karin; The investigation into the murder of Nancy and with everything that is happening and the fact he survived the war as the only one of his unit, brings on a very intense reliving experience. He calls it this “the nine circles of hell”. The story then jumps to the present, the murder of Nancy, and in the past the Vietnam War. In between there is a shorter story from Maryanne Benedict, Nancy’s best friend. She tells the story of the friends and what has happened that particular night.
Nancy; The story is situated in 1974, we speak of the Nixon Watergate scandal, the Klu Klu Klan, the powerful landowners and also Voodoo which was much used in New Orleans.
Karin; painfully slow the author works towards the plot. I say ‘painfully’ because he describes everything in detail and because of that the story doesn’t read very smoothly. While reading you notices that Ellory knows what he talks about and not only by his comprehensive information of the Vietnam War.
Nancy; Ellory describes everything so real that you feel like you’re really present in that time. He also describes things that have happened in the 50’s and 60’s and it’s just like watching a movie.
Karin; It is a literary masterpiece for the fancier. Sentences of up to three lines long aren’t my cup of tea. Still, I enjoyed this book and his story and Ellory knows how to build the tension with a plot that is not only surprising but also credible. I give this book 4 ****
Nancy; I cannot but say that this book has a top level, the writing style, the places where things have occurred and the amount of research this book contains. In a word, a must read and I give this book 5*****
“The evil and the river” is apparently a surprising book for our two reviewers. Karin speaks of a “literary masterpiece”. Nancy praises him for his style of writing and research. Both ladies appreciate the book highly – an average of 4,5 star.