Title: Devil in the Countryside
Author: Cory Barclay
Pub Date: February 15, 2017
Source: Review Copy
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
Devil in the Countryside is a story about the most famous werewolf investigation in history, brimming with intrigue and war, love and betrayal, and long-kept vendettas.
It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorizing the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs.
In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I really don’t read as much historical fiction as I’d like to so I’m extremely pleased with myself for having read this book. And now that I’m done patting myself on the back… I’ll get on with it. Sorry.
For all intents and purposes, this is a murder mystery. The mutilated bodies of young girls are being found and the main suspect of these crimes is an elusive werewolf who is thought to be the devil incarnate. Now the “hunter” is the one being hunted and it seems like everyone in this small town is looking for the devil in the countryside. But who is evil and who is good?
This mystery takes place in the 1500s, right in the midst of the Reformation. Due to the setting, the story is largely focused around opposing religions and war (and really, those things never stop being relevant). You’d think that we would have learned from history by now but apparently we still don’t know how to accept different religions. But that’s a conversation for a different time. I just wanted to note how much I enjoyed the fact that this book made me think about more than just the book, you know?
We are introduced to a large cast of characters who are all morally questionable and frankly, quite unlikable. You could kill off any of these characters and I wouldn’t really care (but maybe that’s just saying something about my Grinch-sized heart). Initially, I was worried that the several points of view would overwhelm me but it was done quite well and only aided in developing all the side characters. In fact, it didn’t really feel like anyone was a side character at all. They were all fleshed out and I really appreciated that. I feel like these varied perspectives also contributed to the overall themes of humanity and Good vs Evil in this book. Or maybe not.
Maybe I’m just reading between the lines here (and oh my goodness, I hate myself for dropping my blog name like that) but I really feel as if this book is exposing humans for what we are: weak. No one is inherently good or bad but we all have the potential to be misguided or self-righteous. With that being said, we also have the potential for redemption. I just think it’s interesting how every character in this book sees things in a different way, but at no point does one character seem more right than another. They’re all a little fucked up, honestly. And maybe that’s the point.
This werewolf investigation truly brought out the viciousness of each character, no matter how “pure” their intentions were to begin with. And it goes without saying that even the most earnest of beings are capable of the most inhumane things.
Overall, the novel was very well-written and easy to follow. I’d like to congratulate Barclay for writing such an impressive debut novel. The future of his books shall be ripe with (fictional) bloodshed and destruction. The good kind. The kind that’s fun to read about. Okay, I’ll stop now.