THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS by Bill Loehfelm

Book Quote:

“Years ago, she’d taught herself never to forget that everyone in her late-night world wanted something from her: a drink or two, a name and a number, a subtle stroke or an obvious grope, forgiveness for spilling or spewing or stepping out of line, a hit of blow or a blow job in the back-seat. They wanted to be seen and heard through the lights and above the noise any way… Everyone in her life, Maureen knew, was a buyer or a seller, usually both, all the time. That fact was the cornerstone on which she’d built her survival. Hers was not a world where a girl could let her guard down. For anyone. Ever.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (JUN 11, 2011)

Physically, 29 year-old Maureen Coughlin is a wisp of a woman, 5’ 4” tall and 100 pounds. Emotionally, she’s a powerhouse, a person with acumen, tenacity, and a wild streak just this side of the Serengeti. She works as a waitress, the same job for the last 10 years and she’s just sick of it. It’s a nowhere job and she’s going nowhere. She lives and works on Staten Island in a faux chic bar with the emphasis on “faux.” She’s started college and dropped out more than once but she knows that waitressing is not where she wants to find herself down the pike. She lives alone and has no one special in her life except her mother who gives her more trouble than solace.

She’s not averse to starting her shifts with a drink and a bit of cocaine to get her going. For a while she had a pretty bad cocaine problem but she’s kicked that. Now, her use is just recreational. Her alcohol consumption, however, is pretty heavy. As The Devil She Knows opens, Maureen is just coming off her shift. It’s near morning and she’s strung out and in a black-out, not even realizing where she is. She finds herself in Dennis’s, her boss’s, office. As she leaves the office she sees Dennis on his knees giving a blow job to Frank Sebastian, candidate for State Senate. She pretends she’s seen nothing and leaves hoping that will be the end of it. Maureen is discreet and knows when to keep a secret. However, the next morning Dennis is found dead, ostensibly a suicide on the railroad tracks. Maureen believes it’s not a suicide because just before she was leaving the bar, Dennis told her he wanted to talk to her. Also, she knows Dennis is not the type to take his life. Now she’s in a real quandary.

She approaches John, her ex-boss at the bar she used to work at. He encourages her to call the cops and gives her the name of one that he trusts as honest and good. It just so happens though that Waters, the cop, has a history with Sebastian. They used to work together in Brooklyn. Something happened that caused Sebastian to retire as a hero and Waters to be transferred to Staten Island. Waters is old and tired. Maureen thinks of him as a lumbering great bear. Maureen confides in him and tells him what happened between Dennis and Sebastian. Waters promises to work on it. He takes her allegations and suspicions very seriously.

What Maureen hadn’t anticipated, however, is just how bad a guy Sebastian is. He is really bad, no shades of gray here. He has killed before and he has killed many people. Maureen finds her apartment broken into, her television smashed, and warning cards laid carefully under her mattress. Sebastian is not a light-weight and Maureen knows she’s in deep trouble. Waters advises her to lay low and stay at her mother’s house. Maureen doesn’t like taking advice or orders. She likes to take things into her own hands and her brain is telling her to find Sebastian and face off.

The book’s plot is pretty basic in its David and Goliath theme – little woman against big and powerful man. However, it’s well-written, has great quips and kept up my interest throughout. Maureen is a wonderful character. The reader feels like they really know her, along with the others who surround her. The author, Bill Loehfelm, is great with building a character from scratch. We get a real sense of everyone in the book and the characters are all there for a purpose – no loose ends and no rabbit trails.

When the confrontation comes, and we know it will come, we’re all rooting for Maureen. Bill Loefelm started his career as the first Amazon Breakthrough writer, winning their award for his novel Fresh Kills. It appears that The Devil She Knows is the first in a series starring Maureen. I look forward to the subsequent books.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 3 readers
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 24, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Missing Persons by Claire O’Donohue


Maureen Coughlin series:

June 11, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: New York City, Sleuths Series

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