THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND by Cynthia Sens

THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND

Book One of the Sapphire Staff Series
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the author’s debut sci-fi thriller, a time-traveling man from the 1940s learns of a present-day Nazi plot.

Mel Taylor works as a genealogist specializing in finding missing people. He’s originally from 1948, but 13 years ago he used a device to time-travel five decades into the future. His latest job involves a boy named Jeffrey who vanished a year ago. Police wrote the boy off as a runaway, but Mel uncovers a link to World War II and an evil Nazi doctor who experimented with genetics. It turns out that Jeffrey’s disappearance may be part of a plot to target Mel himself, and that someone evil may be aware of his complicated history. Sens’ novel is a time-travel story, but certainly not one that bows to convention. Rather than focus on the act of traveling through time, it uses the sci-fi staple to establish Mel’s backstory. He keeps a low profile in a profession that also deals with timelines, but his body was affected by his time-jump in such a way that electronics typically malfunction when he’s near them. He’s surrounded by other exceptional characters, including Joseph, who’s possibly Mel’s only real friend; Emily, Mel’s part-time assistant, who seems unfazed when Mel says that he believes 1940s Nazis are alive and well in Iowa; and Zalbowski, Jeffrey’s father, who willingly faces perils in the hope of finally finding his son. The story is not without humor; for example, Mel is forced to yell across a room to talk with Emily, so that she may use a computer. The author ably generates suspense, as when a blue Volkswagen appears to be following Mel around. In the end, there’s an overwhelming number of unanswered questions, such as the origins of a holy weapon called the Sapphire Staff, which Mel uses against Nazis, and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Mel’s brother, Sanford, and one of Mel’s friends. However, a plot twist at the end sets up a sequel in which, with any luck, answers will arrive.

A riveting, if disappointingly brief, start to what could be a stellar sci-fi series.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1491711835
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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