Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Graham Masterton
Published by Leisure Boooks
Graham Masterton has been writing books over 30 years and has published more than 70 books, both in and out of horror. The man is prolific, to say the least, which leads me to wonder what it was about The Devil In Gray that just fell flat for me.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad book. The plot is different from other novels of its sub-genre (that of the police detective hunting down a maniacal killer), the gore is heaped on a-plenty, and it moves at a quick pace. But there was just something…missing, I guess.
I should say that, of all those years of prolific writing and of all of the 70 novels he’s published, this is the first one I’ve actually read, so when Leisure sent it to me for review I was very pleased. Masterton is one of those names I’ve heard a lot of times in reference to his works, but never had the occasion to check anything out until now. What I’m trying to say is that maybe there’s just some style he has that I’m missing because this is the first time I’ve read him, but that flat feeling won’t go away.
The Devil In Gray deals with homicide detective Decker Martin, who two years previous lost his girlfriend, the only woman he’s ever truly loved, when he got to close to a local Santeria woman by the name of Queen Ache. He’s always suspected her of killing his girl, or having her killed, but anyone that crosses her path finds themselves in a bad way.
Strange killings start to happen all over his town of Richmond, Virginia. People are being cut to pieces, beheaded, and disemboweled by an invisible assailant that leaves no trace behind; no finger prints, no shoe marks, not even so much as some dead skin. Only one person has seen the killer, a young girl with Down’s Syndrome named Sandra, who’s possessed some sort of extra sensory perception her entire life. At first Lt. Martin doesn’t believe her story about having seen the man leaving the scene of the first killing by simply passing through the front door, especially when no one else around saw anything, but as the facts present themselves and Martin is forced to open his mind, he finds her to be more of an asset than he ever imagined. And that he may have to enlist the help of a woman he hates more than anything else in order to stop the killing.
Essentially what we have here is a horror novel that features the ancient religion of Santeria at its core, which is something I can honestly say I’ve never seen done before. Not that it hasn’t been, I’m just unable to place any other novels like it right now. Voodoo, sure, Catholicism, hell yes, but Santeria’s a new one for me. Instantly that promises to be more interesting to me, and the fact that Masterton has done his homework on the religion so he could write like he knew what he was talking about fulfills that promise. That makes it both educational and intelligent writing, and is the sign of an author that really loves what he’s doing. Combined with the U.S. history he had to invoke and explain to somehow fit Santeria together with the Civil War makes for some of the more fascinating pieces of the novel.
One of the minor issues I had with the overall story, however, centered around the charcter of Lt. Martin. To be short and sweet about it, he wasn’t really drawn out to my satisfaction. You know he’s still grieving the loss of his true love (apparently his grieving process involves banging lots and lots of girls), and you know that he’s a “good detective” (cause his captain tells him that all the time), but other than that you’re left wondering what this guy is really about. When Masterton first describes him he mentions he has a pompadour hairstyle, but as you read some parts you really can’t see this man being the kind that would worry about his hair so much. Those things take time, you know. It’s a minor complaint, I know, but it’s indicative of the overall distance I had from the main character throughout the story, which made it very hard to care from moment to moment what was going to happen to him.
That doesn’t make for a bad novel, overall, just a forgettable one and I think that’s the biggest issue I have with it. Aside from the mixing of Santeria and U.S. history in an inventive way, there’s not much about this book that stands out. Some of the deaths are quite impressive, and Masterton doesn’t skimp on the gory details if you know what I mean, but upon closing it for the last time I’m not left with a feeling of any kind of resolution. All in all it’s a well-written book with some issues at its heart, but I would recommend giving it a shot and seeing if you get what I missed.
Make sure you visit Masterton’s official site here for more on the man’s massive body of work.
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