THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Wayne Johnson


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Sluggish thriller by Johnson (Six Crooked Highways, 2000, etc.) about a camping trip that goes wrong when an unhappy family runs into a gang of small-time thugs.

Max and Rachel Geist, separated for some time, are trying to make a fresh start in their marriage. As a part of this domestic reconciliation, Max decides to take their teenaged son David and his seven-year-old sister Janie on a camping trip in the northern Minnesota wilderness. Meanwhile, a very different outing is being planned by four woebegone meat packers. At the urging of his sister Carol, Jack Carpenter, a manager at the Dysart plant in Austin, Minnesota, agrees to take her husband Stacey and his pals Munson and Penry on a hunting trip through the same forest. It’s not exactly a vacation: Stacey has been charged with assault and battery for beating up a Mexican immigrant who works at the plant, and Carol is afraid that the man may die in the hospital, leaving her husband to face charges of manslaughter or worse. So they all head up near the border, ready to slip Stacey across to Canada in case he needs to flee the country. Although he agreed to the plan, Jack is suspicious of his brother-in-law, especially since he’s discovered that Stacey and his pals are involved in a scam that has lifted thousands of dollars of merchandise from the plant over the last year. For their part, Stacey and Penry detest Jack as a stooge of the bosses and resent his promoting a Mexican worker over them. They also suspect he’s on to their scheme. There’s bad blood all around, and things get worse when a chance encounter with Max Geist and his kids turns into a minor scuffle that leads to major disaster. Remember Deliverance? City folks should stay out of the woods.

A very pale knockoff of James Dickey, with ponderous narration taking us through the obvious and predictable story at a snail’s pace.

Pub Date: March 9th, 2004
ISBN: 0-609-60964-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2003


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