A blocked mystery writer whose recent career seems to echo that of his creator (Water of Death, 2001, etc.) gets energized in the worst possible way: by a battle of wits with a vengeful, verse-quoting killer.
Beaten by his adoptive father and picked on by the school bully, Leslie Dunn killed them both at the age of 12. Now he’s set his sights on bigger game: a murder spree that he’s picked suspense novelist Matt Wells to immortalize in prose. Though Matt’s profile could use a boost—he’s been dropped by his publisher, his agent and his wife—being blackmailed into serving as the accomplice of the so-called White Devil isn’t exactly what he had in mind. At first a helpless puppet kept in line (and forced to get himself ever deeper into the Devil’s clutches) by threats to his nearest and dearest, he grabs the reins when he realizes as the bodies begin to pile up around the City of London that the Devil is setting him up as his fall guy. Johnston lets the pressure drop by giving Matt a bunch of muscular ex-rugby allies, cutting away to the police investigation, introducing another trio of freelance avengers and showing the Devil switching gears. Instead of butchering Matt’s ex-wife, daughter and girlfriend, he strengthens the case against Matt by choosing throwaway victims Matt dislikes.
The morbidly inventive death scenes are likely to test readers’ stomachs, the arbitrary violence-at-will their patience.