There’s something about being a woman. You move through the world, riding the bus or walking out alone, but you’re on alert. You take in each person you see on the street and measure the potential threat. You’re constantly gauging your own feeling of safety. You’re careful.
That’s perhaps even more true for women living in 1993 in Toronto, when the Paul Bernardo murders came to light and murdered young women dominated the news. That serves as the setting for The Devil You Know, Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s debut novel.
Twenty-one-year-old Evie Jones, a novice reporter covering the crime beat, is living in this climate of fear and hyper-vigilance. It doesn’t help that when she was 11 years old, Evie’s best friend Liane was abducted and murdered in a case that remains unsolved, with the suspected killer still on the loose. Now, as Evie investigates the murders of other young girls, she is haunted anew by her friend’s death and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery. At the same time, living on her own for the first time, she’s paranoid and filled with terror, convinced that someone is coming after her next.
The Devil You Know is a page-turner. The suspense and the desire to solve the mystery of what’s really going on keeps you reading until the end. I picked up The Devil You Know because, like a lot of people right now, I’m into the nail-biting thrillers like Gone Girl. It delivers as a thriller, with twists and turns that create a tense atmosphere that keeps the reader guessing.
But it is so much more than just an average thriller or typical crime novel. I knew it was set in Toronto, but I didn’t realize that de Mariaffi would address real crimes, like those committed by Paul Bernado. This causes a blur between fiction and reality, which makes the story all the more terrifying – as a reader, you know this is fiction, but you also know that these types of things actually happen in your own country. It’s dark and heavy subject matter that hits closer to home. This is a book about evil, and about how that evil impacts women, society, and ultimately, our culture.
In many ways, The Devil You Know serves as a social commentary on violence against women. De Mariaffi did an excellent job portraying what it feels like to be a woman on alert, living in a climate that breeds fear. It’s equally thrilling as a novel like Gone Girl, but more serious and disturbing. It left me with an uneasy feeling long after I was finished.
Have you read The Devil You Know? What did you think of it? How did it compare to other thrillers and crime stories?