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Friend of the Devil

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From acclaimed television writer Stephen Lloyd comes a devilishly good debut: a lightning-fast horror/noir mash-up for fans of Jim Butcher and Joe Hill. It's the 1980s and Sam Gregory, a substance-abusing war veteran turned insurance investigator, arrives at the galactically elite Danforth Putnam boarding school off the coast of New England to find a stolen manuscript o From acclaimed television writer Stephen Lloyd comes a devilishly good debut: a lightning-fast horror/noir mash-up for fans of Jim Butcher and Joe Hill. It's the 1980s and Sam Gregory, a substance-abusing war veteran turned insurance investigator, arrives at the galactically elite Danforth Putnam boarding school off the coast of New England to find a stolen manuscript of incalculable value. He soon senses that something far stranger than missing books is afoot--and when students begin vanishing from campus, he realizes how serious it is. At the same time, a reporter is keeping an eye on Sam. Harriet, a physically fragile but spiritually indomitable writer for the school paper, is trying to figure out precisely what he's up to. As events at the school become increasingly terrifying, Sam and Harriet both venture into increasingly dark territory to crack the mystery. In the end, they uncover a truth more horrible than they could have imagined. Put the novels of Raymond Chandler and Bram Stoker in a blender, splash in a couple drops of Stranger Things, and pour yourself a nice tall glass of Friend of the Devil.


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From acclaimed television writer Stephen Lloyd comes a devilishly good debut: a lightning-fast horror/noir mash-up for fans of Jim Butcher and Joe Hill. It's the 1980s and Sam Gregory, a substance-abusing war veteran turned insurance investigator, arrives at the galactically elite Danforth Putnam boarding school off the coast of New England to find a stolen manuscript o From acclaimed television writer Stephen Lloyd comes a devilishly good debut: a lightning-fast horror/noir mash-up for fans of Jim Butcher and Joe Hill. It's the 1980s and Sam Gregory, a substance-abusing war veteran turned insurance investigator, arrives at the galactically elite Danforth Putnam boarding school off the coast of New England to find a stolen manuscript of incalculable value. He soon senses that something far stranger than missing books is afoot--and when students begin vanishing from campus, he realizes how serious it is. At the same time, a reporter is keeping an eye on Sam. Harriet, a physically fragile but spiritually indomitable writer for the school paper, is trying to figure out precisely what he's up to. As events at the school become increasingly terrifying, Sam and Harriet both venture into increasingly dark territory to crack the mystery. In the end, they uncover a truth more horrible than they could have imagined. Put the novels of Raymond Chandler and Bram Stoker in a blender, splash in a couple drops of Stranger Things, and pour yourself a nice tall glass of Friend of the Devil.

30 review for Friend of the Devil

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    “Your problem,” he told himself as he headed back to the Devil’s Vale, “is that you can’t leave well enough the hell alone.” -------------------------------------- “Kid walks in here with a bullet lodged in him, I gotta call the cops. Kid walks in showing obvious signs of abuse, I have to contact a social worker. Kid walks in pregnant, I need to inform the parents. Beyond that, for the most part, I’m supposed to keep my trap shut.” “Who do you call if a kid walks in pregnant, with a bullet “Your problem,” he told himself as he headed back to the Devil’s Vale, “is that you can’t leave well enough the hell alone.” -------------------------------------- “Kid walks in here with a bullet lodged in him, I gotta call the cops. Kid walks in showing obvious signs of abuse, I have to contact a social worker. Kid walks in pregnant, I need to inform the parents. Beyond that, for the most part, I’m supposed to keep my trap shut.” “Who do you call if a kid walks in pregnant, with a bullet wound, showing signs of abuse?” Sam asked. “A career counselor,” she said, brushing her hair back, “’cause I’m outta here. Ok, island off the Massachusetts coast, private school, Danforth Putnam. (Thomas Danforth and Ann Putnam were judge and accuser in the Salem trials). Why a high school? I still think high school is one of the scariest places there is. It’s a place where human beings, who are barely more than children emotionally and mentally, face calamitous, potentially life-ruining choices, while approaching the height of their physical powers and sexual energy…Boarding school is all that with no parental supervision, which just amplifies its Lord of the Flies quality. - from The Big Thrill interviewFriend of the Devil is an enclosed environment thriller of a familiar sort. Think Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. (the original book had a different, dodgier title) An eleventh century book has gone missing and SATCO Mutual, (we can imagine what the SAT stands for) the insurer on the hook, has sent Sam (for Sam Spade) Gregory to bring it back. Identifying the perp is not all that challenging for our gumshoe, but there is more to the tale than nabbing a thief. What is a prep school doing with such an ancient book? What is the nature of the book? Why was it stolen? The questions mount. Like what happened to that pre-teen who supposedly returned to the mainland to be adopted? Is he really having a better life? Stephen Lloyd writing on an impressively retro word processor - image from The Big Thrill – image by Stephen Lloyd Sam is a fun lead, with military hair, a capacity for violence, PTSD hellfire memories of ‘Nam, and not much else, and a determination to see his job through to completion. And then people begin dying, with a hint of brimstone in the air. Sam takes his licks, getting repeatedly knocked out in a running joke, but keeps on keepin’ on, following leads and doing what he does. Harriet ( the spy ) is our student cozy investigator, epileptic, a nerd extraordinaire, black, bullied, and dogged. She gets her licks in by writing exposes in the school paper. If Sam fails to get to the very bottom of all there is, Harriet is sure to find her way there. Their paths can be expected to cross, eventually. It is 1980. No cell phones. Memory of the Vietnam War is still fresh. Reagan has arrived in a sulfurous chariot to do some lasting damage to the nation. There is a specimen of that breed at the school, who behaves as one might expect, receiving some unwanted insight in return. The references keep on coming. Mr. Chesterton is named for G.K.. There are plenty more, overt and not. Laura Hershlag is named for the title character of one of the classic noir films. Dr. Spellman is named for a character in Sabrina. There are references to Poe’s The Raven, the Tales of Hoffman and plenty more, a veritable cornucopia for those who enjoy playing literary treasure hunt. The staff at this school are not the friendliest. Sam interviews Ms. (Annabel? ) Lee, the librarian, whose cat is named for Alistair Crowley. When she saw Sam, her mouth twisted into a citrus pucker. “May I help you?” she asked in a voice that could freeze pipes. The students are no prize either. We expect rich kids to be spoiled, but even the scholarship kid is up to no good. One palooka hopes to juice his way into the NFL, while using his considerable physical brawn to dark purposes. Others are not much better. Ok, so I had a forked reaction to this one. First is that there were multiple LOL moments, including one ROFL. This is a HUUUUUGGE plus. Not at all surprising from one of the main writers and executive producers of How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family. And I loved all the references. Second, was that it felt lean, to the point of gaunt. Not quite a novel in length, FotD settles in at a more novella-ish 45,000 words, give or take. Supporting cast was mostly of the cardboard cutout variety. Yes, some background is offered, but only enough to make them cast shadows. (Well, assuming that the characters are actually capable of casting shadows) This is a product of Lloyd’s very successful TV career, (four Emmy nominations) in which the clock is always ticking and descriptions and self-reflection are seen as tools of the devil’s workshop. (which may be in Iowa) There is plenty of gruesomeness, but it is handled with a light touch which, I know, sounds like an oxymoron, and maybe it is. There is a fabulous twist, which is always a delight. Sam Gregory is a fun lead, an investigator with a Chandler-esque, noir sense of humor, and a war-veteran’s issues with sleep. Harriet, honor student in the civilian investigator role, is one of the better cast members. Their perspectives alternate throughout. It moves along at an over-the-limit pace, while building up a body count, and revealing more and more witchy elements. Bottom line is that this a devilishly (helluva?) fun summer read. You will blaze right through, pausing on occasion to fall out of your seat laughing. Your brain can occupy itself with catching as many references as it can. This is a fast, pure entertainment, with only an occasional side-glance at real-world concerns. You will not risk eternal damnation if you read this one, so long as you keep your inner demons where they belong, but you may hurt yourself laughing. Review posted – May 27, 2022 Publication date – May 10, 2022 I received an ARE of Friend of the Devil from G.P. Putnam's Sons in return for a fair review, and the tiniest sliver of a soul. Thanks, folks This review has been cross-posted on my site, Coot’s Reviews. Stop by and say Hi! ---------------------------------------- Lloyd seems interested in writing a sequel, having set this one up to allow for the possibility. I hope he does. Possible Titles for Volume 2 – Here, I’ll get you started Dead Lasso Demon Elementary Devil Knows Best Devil-ish Distant Relation of the Devil Everybody Loves the Devil The Fresh Prince of Level Nine Flight of the Demons How I Met Your Devil Kids Say the Most Demonic Things Married with Demons The Marvelous Mrs Scratch Modern Satanic Family Young Beelzebub =============================EXTRA STUFF From Penguin Random House Stephen Lloyd is a TV producer and writer, best known as an executive producer of award-winning shows such as “Modern Family” and “How I Met Your Mother.”Interviews -----The Crew Review - Stephen Lloyd | Friends of the Devil - 50:42 - by Sean Cameron, Christopher Albanese, Mike Houtz -----* The Big Thrill - Up Close: Stephen Lloyd by Allison McKnight Songs/Music -----The Grateful Dead - Friend of the Devil -----The Rollingstones - Sympathy for the Devil

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    Afterlife Insurance... Creepy, violent, bloody and funny as hell, Stephen Lloyd's "Friend of the Devil" is a rushing roller coaster ride that does not land anywhere near where you would expect. It sounds like a simple enough premise: Sam Gregory is an insurance investigator sent to track down a rare book stolen at a boarding school on a spooky island. There are supernatural forces at play, there are students who are bullies, there are students who are nerds, and Sam's wise-cracking sarcasm runs t Afterlife Insurance... Creepy, violent, bloody and funny as hell, Stephen Lloyd's "Friend of the Devil" is a rushing roller coaster ride that does not land anywhere near where you would expect. It sounds like a simple enough premise: Sam Gregory is an insurance investigator sent to track down a rare book stolen at a boarding school on a spooky island. There are supernatural forces at play, there are students who are bullies, there are students who are nerds, and Sam's wise-cracking sarcasm runs throughout. I enjoyed this book and happily recommend it-- although you may want to think twice before pestering your librarian about it. Thank you to G.P. Putnam's Sons and NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. #FriendoftheDevil #NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Well, I can honestly say, when I found out HIMYM and Modern Family’s executive producer and screenwriter Stephen Lloyd has written his thriller debut, I was so intrigued to read the book! I had higher expectations even though this is first tango as novel author and I always keen on dark academia thrillers with its so mysterious character who is Vietnam veteran, gardener and now he’s an insurance agent is sent to investigate the stolen goods at boarding school. The story takes place at east coas Well, I can honestly say, when I found out HIMYM and Modern Family’s executive producer and screenwriter Stephen Lloyd has written his thriller debut, I was so intrigued to read the book! I had higher expectations even though this is first tango as novel author and I always keen on dark academia thrillers with its so mysterious character who is Vietnam veteran, gardener and now he’s an insurance agent is sent to investigate the stolen goods at boarding school. The story takes place at east coast US on 1980. But descriptions and writing style reminded me of British series ( not books but tv series) There are so many missing pieces about character developments including protagonist. Unnecessarily bloody, vicious murder scenes made me disturbed because they were far fetched and not truly matched with entire pilot. The book seemed like developed as a screenplay and at last second it might be adapted into a book. It was too short,instead of character back stories, motivations, we only see action packed with high dosage of violence chapters and abrupt wrapping up. Overall: I liked dark academia thriller idea and interesting plot about mysterious investigator who tries to solve the mystery about stolen manuscript but the execution was wobbling, taking readers to unknown and unnecessary directions. I’m still rounding up 2.5 stars to 3 because of the plot idea that attracted my attention. But I have to tell I was expecting more. Special thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP PUTNAM/ G. P. Putnam’s Sons for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    This wasn’t bad. It read like hard boiled detective fiction with a creepy occult twist until it didn’t. The main character, Sam, literally reminds me of Sam Spade. The writer’s wit comes through the character and usually works well unless it is overdone, which does happen. The book felt a bit rushed towards the end. It wasn’t extremely long, and while I typically think that if a length of a book needs to be altered making it shorter usually makes it better; however, that’s not the case with this This wasn’t bad. It read like hard boiled detective fiction with a creepy occult twist until it didn’t. The main character, Sam, literally reminds me of Sam Spade. The writer’s wit comes through the character and usually works well unless it is overdone, which does happen. The book felt a bit rushed towards the end. It wasn’t extremely long, and while I typically think that if a length of a book needs to be altered making it shorter usually makes it better; however, that’s not the case with this book. It could easily have been a hundred pages longer by working the mystery element which was, IMO, the best part of the book. Overall this was a decent read and if there is another book with this/these characters I will certainly want to see what happens next. This is a four star read that wants to be a five star but isn’t given the chance. Four stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    This book snuck up on me. I didn't expect it to be quite so creepy and weird. I enjoy horror stories set in upper class twit boarding schools, and figured this story would be another along the lines of multiple others I have read. I was wrong....oh so wrong. Joyously wrong. Stephen Lloyd weaves sarcasm and wit around a horror plot with grace and style. He caught me by surprise with some of the twists and turns of this plot. A fun creepy read! The basics: Sam Gregory is a detective for an insuranc This book snuck up on me. I didn't expect it to be quite so creepy and weird. I enjoy horror stories set in upper class twit boarding schools, and figured this story would be another along the lines of multiple others I have read. I was wrong....oh so wrong. Joyously wrong. Stephen Lloyd weaves sarcasm and wit around a horror plot with grace and style. He caught me by surprise with some of the twists and turns of this plot. A fun creepy read! The basics: Sam Gregory is a detective for an insurance company. Sam is a product of Too Much and Too Many. Too Many Vietnam memories. Too Much Smoking. Too Much work. Too Many vices. Too much Stress. He's called to investigate a case involving a stolen rare book at Danforth Putnam, an elite boarding school. The setting is perfect -- the school is on an isolated island. The school is creepy. The faculty is creepy. And the kids are......teenagers. Scary as hell! This tale rapidly becomes more than just a search for a priceless book gone missing from a safe. There is much, much more going on at Danforth Putnam. It's not a long book -- the pacing is fast. This was a binge read for me. The sort of warped Scooby Doo feel coupled with the jaded aging detective all tangled in a supernatural edged mess.....the tale sucked me right in. Despite several obvious clues and misdirections, I didn't really see the end coming. But then again I'm also the one who knows the jump scare is coming....I know it's coming....then it comes and I still scream and jump like an idiot. Every time!! Very entertaining story. It reads like a fleshed-out television script. Short, fast paced, a bit of humor thrown in to break up the creepy, a few tropey side characters and just a couple MCs, and a completely cinematic awesome setting. Glad I read this book! It was engaging and very creepy! But not something that was going to weigh on my mind for long after I finished reading. Creepy, entertaining and quick dash of horror -- just what I like for a rainy afternoon scary read! This is the first book by Stephen Lloyd that I've read. I will definitely be reading more. **I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Penguin/Putnam Group. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    2.5 ? I thought this was going to be a story about a detective-type guy who struggles with addiction as we follow him grappling with a case that hits too close to home. Instead, I got a Riverdale episode. Now, I've never actually seen a single Riverdale episode in my life, but I can tell you for sure that that's what this is. They're in a college (?) and kids are going missing and there's a drug gang and murderous teenagers and demons and satanic cults and so much Latin. It was kind of camp actual 2.5 ? I thought this was going to be a story about a detective-type guy who struggles with addiction as we follow him grappling with a case that hits too close to home. Instead, I got a Riverdale episode. Now, I've never actually seen a single Riverdale episode in my life, but I can tell you for sure that that's what this is. They're in a college (?) and kids are going missing and there's a drug gang and murderous teenagers and demons and satanic cults and so much Latin. It was kind of camp actually how insane it was. And Sam is the straight guy (TM) who doesn't know what's going on and is just trying to do his job. Also funny descriptions of women I won't talk about. Read if you're insane. Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced reader's copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Woof this was…not good. It was a pretty quick read and if I could categorize it it would be something between YA and adult only because of the graphic parts. The way that this was marketed as a cross between Dracula and Stranger Things absolutely did it a huge disservice to my expectations. It was very …childish and bleh.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    Holy s**t. I just finished this. In like a day. This was such a great book. Where do I begin... Vietnam War vet turned insurance investigator meets high-end boarding school, searching for a missing - and very valuable - book. What he finds is a lot more than he ever bargained for. Sarcastic and intelligent, Sam Gregory takes his job.... fairly seriously. He smokes too much, takes too many meds, but maintains a solid grip on reality. Usually. Brilliant and stubborn, Harriet is on a mission to disco Holy s**t. I just finished this. In like a day. This was such a great book. Where do I begin... Vietnam War vet turned insurance investigator meets high-end boarding school, searching for a missing - and very valuable - book. What he finds is a lot more than he ever bargained for. Sarcastic and intelligent, Sam Gregory takes his job.... fairly seriously. He smokes too much, takes too many meds, but maintains a solid grip on reality. Usually. Brilliant and stubborn, Harriet is on a mission to discover just who messed with her D&D nerd pals. What she stumbles into would make even a veteran gamer suck their thumb in fear. Read this book. You won't be sorry. I was allowed to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this book was fantastic. Thank you Netgalley, Stephen Lloyd and G.P. Putnam's Sons Publishing for aliasing me the honor. All opinions are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    I was so excited to read this one. The cover is so well done and I was hooked by the spooky vibe of the synopsis and the cover. But it took me a minute to get the vibe of the story down. I went in being too serious - think of a gory but silly horror movie. THAT is the vibe. Once I reset it, I loved it. This is a fast read, hopping from one POV to the next, seamlessly giving us the details happening around the campus as secrets are revealed and bodies start piling up. I had so many guesses on who I was so excited to read this one. The cover is so well done and I was hooked by the spooky vibe of the synopsis and the cover. But it took me a minute to get the vibe of the story down. I went in being too serious - think of a gory but silly horror movie. THAT is the vibe. Once I reset it, I loved it. This is a fast read, hopping from one POV to the next, seamlessly giving us the details happening around the campus as secrets are revealed and bodies start piling up. I had so many guesses on who it was but ultimately, did guess at least part but wasn't disappointed at all. The best part was how the story was left open for more. I would absolutely love another book or 2 or 3 of this one. A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    What a breath of fresh air! I have read about ten duds in a row, and by the tenth page I knew I had a winner! This book is clever, very funny, and filled with blood! That's right, lots of gore! I loved it! The ending was shocking, and thought provoking. At 240 pages, it's a super fast read. Pick this one up if you need a break from your standard fare, and you aren't afraid of some blood! What a breath of fresh air! I have read about ten duds in a row, and by the tenth page I knew I had a winner! This book is clever, very funny, and filled with blood! That's right, lots of gore! I loved it! The ending was shocking, and thought provoking. At 240 pages, it's a super fast read. Pick this one up if you need a break from your standard fare, and you aren't afraid of some blood!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Friend of the Devil. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** The story sounds pretty straightforward; a PI from an insurance company named Sam Gregory has been called in to investigate the theft of a rare book on the grounds of a privileged boarding school on an island. At the same time, an intrepid student reporter named Harriet has begun her own investigation and eventually, her and Sam's paths will collide, but not in the way you imagined. Events happen and things ge Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Friend of the Devil. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** The story sounds pretty straightforward; a PI from an insurance company named Sam Gregory has been called in to investigate the theft of a rare book on the grounds of a privileged boarding school on an island. At the same time, an intrepid student reporter named Harriet has begun her own investigation and eventually, her and Sam's paths will collide, but not in the way you imagined. Events happen and things get weird. Really, really weird. Good thing I like weird. You could feel it practically from the first page; the setting of a boarding school on an isolated island, the downright creepy librarian, the indifference of the teachers, the sociopathic students. I didn't mind the gore and violence; that stuff doesn't bother me but I do mind cliches. Sam is a stereotype of a cliche of a trope; a former military vet suffering from PTSD, he smokes too much with a devil-may-care attitude (pun intended). The twist at the end reminded me of a horror movie I watched last year called The Empty Man. I won't go into details but the book's twist mirrors the movie's climatic ending. The tone and writing style reads a bit YA, especially since the majority of the characters are students and the chapters shift back and forth between some of the students. Some of the chapters started off oddly, almost as if I had started reading in the middle of a paragraph, which gave me a disoriented feeling. Not sure if this was an editing error, the writing style or done on purpose. This had so much potential and if there had been character development and exposition on the boarding school's founder, how the book came to be, more magic and devilry, I would have added an extra star.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sadie Hartmann

    This review originally was published at Mystery & Suspense Magazine https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/fr... Sam Gregory is an insurance investigator prone to his vices and wise guy remarks. He is sent to a posh boarding school located on an island to inquire about a stolen, seemingly important, book. Sam makes his acquaintance with the school’s faculty and students, interviewing them about the book and diving deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding its origins. Along the way, he bumps into This review originally was published at Mystery & Suspense Magazine https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/fr... Sam Gregory is an insurance investigator prone to his vices and wise guy remarks. He is sent to a posh boarding school located on an island to inquire about a stolen, seemingly important, book. Sam makes his acquaintance with the school’s faculty and students, interviewing them about the book and diving deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding its origins. Along the way, he bumps into a young journalist who has been tracking Sam’s every move. Stephen Llyod’s writing style is accessible. Readers will find it easy to engage; sprinting toward the halfway point in no time at all. The words come together like a little movie for the mind–not surprising since Lloyd writes for television; effortlessly bringing that casual, audience engagement to his storytelling. Marketing for the book included a read-alike for fans of Joe Hill and Jim Butcher but that is pretty misleading. This book lands squarely in the hands of a much younger readership. A better comparison would be dark academia, like The Umbrella Academy mashed with Only Murders in the Building. Sam Gregory’s salty personality and witty banter with literally everyone he meets is clever and entertaining. But the scenes read like thirty-five minute episodes for network television. The young characters feel like child actors delivering rehearsed lines delivered just right to land the punch and Sam, the grizzled war veteran is too on the nose. Nobody seems grounded in the story, just some cliched versions of people, like props, positioned throughout the story to contribute their piece before exiting stage right. All of this to say the result is a lack of authenticity preventing readers from full investment beyond basic curiosity. Friend of the Devil is a book written to be adapted. It doesn’t add anything unique to the genre of supernatural suspense or leave a memorable, lasting impact on readers. Maybe it will be a great TV show.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    Thanks to Edelweiss for allowing me a chance at reading this early. The summary of this book sounded really interesting. I just felt that I missed something? The main character had a backstory that is kind of dropped here and there throughout the book, but you feel like you're missing a chunk of history and how he works as an insurance agent. There is also the fact that he seems used to supernatural goings on but again, you don't really get to know if this was truly his first encounter. I feel lik Thanks to Edelweiss for allowing me a chance at reading this early. The summary of this book sounded really interesting. I just felt that I missed something? The main character had a backstory that is kind of dropped here and there throughout the book, but you feel like you're missing a chunk of history and how he works as an insurance agent. There is also the fact that he seems used to supernatural goings on but again, you don't really get to know if this was truly his first encounter. I feel like the plot and the characters didn't really connect to one another and that both of them were doing their own thing and shoved together in a story that seemed to ride at a speed that was too fast for me to settle and enjoy. Side Note: The location of the story is on the east coast of the US, but the writing and tone of the characters is VERY UK. They say and or reference things that would make sense in a UK setting. I had to double read passages to make sure that I was indeed on the east coast. I think if anything readers will find this book to be interesting and with quirky dialogue, but that it can't be saved with characters and a plot that seem separated from one another.

  14. 4 out of 5

    AndiReads

    This book was pitched as a mashup of horror and noir and for those who enjoy Stranger Things. I agree ! The novel is set at Danforth Putnam Boarding School. Sam Gregory, an angry lone wolf detective (well, an investigator for an insurance company) arrives to find a stolen manuscript previously kept in a safe. There is definitely a noir tone and horror abounds through the dark academia plot. As Sam gets closer to solving the case he partners with the small but mighty Harriet, a high school journal This book was pitched as a mashup of horror and noir and for those who enjoy Stranger Things. I agree ! The novel is set at Danforth Putnam Boarding School. Sam Gregory, an angry lone wolf detective (well, an investigator for an insurance company) arrives to find a stolen manuscript previously kept in a safe. There is definitely a noir tone and horror abounds through the dark academia plot. As Sam gets closer to solving the case he partners with the small but mighty Harriet, a high school journalist far too smart for her own good. The plot moves quickly and there are plenty of non sequiturs about high school culture and the Reagan years in general. If you like YA, Stranger Things, hard boiled detectives, mighty little angry dungeons and dragons players, or just like a twisty horror fantasy novel, than this is the book for you! #FriendofTheDevil #Putnam #GPPutnam #Netgalley #YA

  15. 5 out of 5

    Will

    6 / 10 ✪ https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com... 1980’s New England. An 11th century manuscript of untold value and much deeper worth has gone missing from haut monde boarding school Danforth Putnam, where the elite intermingle with the destitute. Sam Gregory—insurance investigator and scarred war vet—sets forth to the isle to investigate. Upon landing Sam finds more cause for concern than just a lost manuscript. There are students missing—not that anyone seems too concerned. Danforth Putnam has a 6 / 10 ✪ https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com... 1980’s New England. An 11th century manuscript of untold value and much deeper worth has gone missing from haut monde boarding school Danforth Putnam, where the elite intermingle with the destitute. Sam Gregory—insurance investigator and scarred war vet—sets forth to the isle to investigate. Upon landing Sam finds more cause for concern than just a lost manuscript. There are students missing—not that anyone seems too concerned. Danforth Putnam has an interesting system on the books to balance its aristocratic pedigree. Namely, granting orphans a full tuition at the school so long as they help out with some of the more unsavory labor, below the status of the rich and famous. The students that have gone missing, of course, belong to the lower class—motherless urchins that no one will miss. And indeed no one seems to. But Sam is only here for the book. And while the missing students worry him—he really can’t do anything about them. But the longer he spends at Danforth Putnam, the more Sam worries that the missing students might tie-in to the absence of the book. Confronted with wild rumors of witchcraft and murders, he must navigate the warren of gossip and lies that exist at any school, at least so long as he hopes to find the book. But Sam is tireless and ardent in his duty, which is good—for one never knows just how deep the rabbit hole might go. — “Cops know how much the book’s worth?” Thomas Arundel sighed. “Danforth Putnam is technically in West Cabot County. Last year, West Cabot County had three murders, two dozen rapes, nearly four hundred aggravated assaults and eighteen arsons. I called about a stolen book. Trust me, Mr. Gregory, they don’t care what it’s worth. As far as anyone own that side of the Atlantic is concerned, this is an island full of spoiled rich kids with spoiled-rich-kid problems, and a stolen book, even a valuable one, fits firmly in that category.” — The story is entertaining, exciting, and immersive. The mystery itself is interesting and fast-paced, so I never had any trouble reading it. Sam Gregory is a little bit of a cliché—a Vietnam vet who uses cigarettes and a wise-ass routine to mask his PTSD, while refusing to play by the rules. Good thing he’s a PI and not a detective, or it would’ve been an unacceptable level of cliché. But I guess my tolerance for freelance or third-party gumshoes is a lot more lenient than beat cop. I actually quite enjoyed his renegade persona and sarcasm, though I still feel like it’s the default state for any 80’s cop. Don’t get me started on the reporter angle. If there are two POVs in any mystery/thriller nowadays, odds are they’re a reporter and some kinda detective. The character development in this was about as deep and intricate as the characters themselves. As in, they weren’t. Everyone—even Sam and Harriet—were one-sided and shallow. Only one character showed anything even remotely like growth, and yet I really wouldn’t’ve called it that. While Friend of the Devil doesn’t try anything new at the outset, the more you dig into the story, the more it threatens to exploit these clichés in unexpected ways. Overall, the story was interesting, immersive, and thrilling. An 11th century manuscript missing, a wayward teen obsessed with magic and power, missing students, terrible secrets, a plot that refused to slow down once it got rolling. And then comes the end. And the main issue I had with it. The scene comes close to the end and is the lynchpin for everything that follows. And it’s… ridiculous. It’s clear that the author had an ending in mind, and had written up a thrilling conclusion to match, but was having trouble connecting the two. And instead of reworking one or the other—they forced it. Beware spoilers for the following paragraph (view spoiler)[ The scene in question takes place between a teenage girl and a grown man. The girl is noted as being undersized, appearing much like a twelve-year old instead of her actual sixteen. The man is described as strong, 6’3, 220, built a bit like a boxer. Additionally, the teenager has no history or interest in martial arts or dedicated exercise (yes, I know one can be physically fit without an interest in such things—that’s not the point I’m trying to make—just give me a minute here). She also suffers from none-too-rare epileptic seizures. The lynchpin exchange has her suffering a seizure just after taking the man’s hand. She proceeds to judo-throw him over her shoulder ten feet. While seizing up. No, he’s not off-balance. Yes, this is vital to the plot. If it were reversed, and it were a 200+ pound man seizing up and throwing a girl over his shoulder teen feet, I’d still be calling bullshit, so it makes perfect sense that I’m equally incensed about it the other way around. (hide spoiler)] And forcing it—particularly in this manner, in this case—just doesn’t work. Like, at all. It soured me on the ending, and a bit on the plot to this point. Which just had (I’ll point out) dropped another bombshell on us, which I was still working through, deciding if it made any more sense (it DID, but only just, not that that mattered for very long). I’m not saying that this was the intent, but it just struck me as lazy: you’ve written a thrilling and entertaining story; you dropped your big twist; and now see fit to ruin it with some uncooked scenario just so you wouldn’t have to rewrite a conclusion that actually makes sense. Two weeks out, and I still find myself looking back on the tale: the immersion of the setting, the story; the way the tense atmosphere slowly devolves into horror and terror; the mystery that’s there to solve, that has you looking one way for so long and then suddenly opening your mind to a dozen new possibilities—and then I remember the ending. And it’s mostly soured. TL;DR If you happened to read the entire review—welcome to the end! If you didn’t, that’s okay too, I guess. But only one of you will understand just how hard it is for me to rate this book. I mean, you’ve seen my star-rating above, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book—or around 90% of it. Around the 80% mark things started to get a little weird, but that’s to be expected with these horror titles. 9/10ths of the way down, Friend of the Devil was sailing towards an 8 star rating, with little that could derail its bright, bright future. But at the close, everything fell apart. An impossibility; a ridiculous moment that should’ve been laughed off and rewritten, but instead went down as a major plot-point, something the entire ending hinged on. And it soured everything for me. And yet… I guess I’m still going to recommend this. Maybe it won’t be as big an issue for you. Maybe you’ll be willing to overlook a few clichés, a few shallow characters, a few stumbles. After skimming the other reviews of this, it seems I’m hardly alone in my disappointment. So, maybe… wait for it to go on sale. Or look for it at your local library. Or go in with an open mind, but temper your expectations.

  16. 5 out of 5

    April

    Friend of the Devil releases May 10th: Slasher-tastic kills, Multiple POVs, Unrealistic Satanism, Twisty Weird Ending Sam Gregory is a chain-smoking Vietnam vet turned investigator looking into a book theft at a rich kid's boarding school. The 80s-fabulous setting was super entertaining and, oh my word, does author Stephen Lloyd know how to set a scene! The mystery is intriguing and the teen characters described are nostalgic and hilarious. I loved Sam's bad attitude. His character drove the pace Friend of the Devil releases May 10th: Slasher-tastic kills, Multiple POVs, Unrealistic Satanism, Twisty Weird Ending Sam Gregory is a chain-smoking Vietnam vet turned investigator looking into a book theft at a rich kid's boarding school. The 80s-fabulous setting was super entertaining and, oh my word, does author Stephen Lloyd know how to set a scene! The mystery is intriguing and the teen characters described are nostalgic and hilarious. I loved Sam's bad attitude. His character drove the pace nicely. All in all, an enjoyable read with nice cover art. 'Friend of the Devil', as the name implies,  deserves a cool 80s playlist complete with a Jerry Garcia t-shirt and pack of Kent candy cigarettes to go with it's "satanic panic" vibe. It reads like a R-Rated Scooby-Doo movie mash-up with 'Mean Girls' and some nameless cop drama. Unfortunately I wanted a different ending but it definitely was unexpected, so there's that. Extreme horror fans will find it too mild and cozy mystery fans won't like some of the language. However with slasher and paranormal horror fans I think this book will find a happy audience. Thanks to Putnam Books for providing my free review copy. @putnambooks

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Grace (Azrael865)

    The private boarding school of Danforth Putnam was founded on an island off Massachusetts by the puritan leader Mason Alderhut. Since then it has been a high school for the children of elite families and also housing for orphans as its charitable mission. When a valuable old book is stolen, insurance Investigator Sam Gregory, is called in to find it. Being housed on an island, Sam thinks this should be a fairly simple search, but he is very wrong. Children begin to go missing and there are stor The private boarding school of Danforth Putnam was founded on an island off Massachusetts by the puritan leader Mason Alderhut. Since then it has been a high school for the children of elite families and also housing for orphans as its charitable mission. When a valuable old book is stolen, insurance Investigator Sam Gregory, is called in to find it. Being housed on an island, Sam thinks this should be a fairly simple search, but he is very wrong. Children begin to go missing and there are stories of occult activities. Through it all Sam finds himself inspired by a 16 year school news reporter, Harriet. Her righteous indignation and loyalty to her friends leaves Sam searching for something within himself, along with getting to the bottom of what is happening on this weird island. I must say, I never guessed the final reveal of the story. A very entertaining and fast read. Thank you to Netgalley and PENGUIN GROUP/ Putnam for opportunity to enjoy this e-ARC

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gyalten Lekden

    I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. But I will start with what I did enjoy. The overall story, from where it starts to how it concludes, I thought was interesting. A lot of the red herrings were really obvious, but the ending still felt more or less earned and was a fun direction to take the story (and a potential series). I also liked the pacing, which kept the book moving. It was a short book, and the pacing and overall structure combined with enough interest in the story to fini I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. But I will start with what I did enjoy. The overall story, from where it starts to how it concludes, I thought was interesting. A lot of the red herrings were really obvious, but the ending still felt more or less earned and was a fun direction to take the story (and a potential series). I also liked the pacing, which kept the book moving. It was a short book, and the pacing and overall structure combined with enough interest in the story to finish it in a day. But there were some areas that didn’t work as well for me. It felt like a YA adventure book, even in the way it introduced characters and what it chose to focus on, but it has violence that was a little more than expected in a YA novel. In addition, it borrowed tropes from noir/detective genres, as well as horror, but never felt committed to any one thing, and as a result didn’t feel like it knew what it wanted to be or who it wanted to speak to. When I realized the author writes for television some of it made sense, there is a definite episodic nature to the structure, and you can almost feel how the chapter breaks are little more than commercial breaks. Most characters are basically introduced as needed, nothing felt seeded or like it was looking to a long view, it felt very episodic. None of the characters felt like they were more than a thin veneer of character. In some cases, as many characters hold secrets, there is some plot reason for characters being portrayed somewhat thinly. But from the budding incel to the nerdy journalist to the drama queen playwright to the burnout gardener to the alcoholic boatsman to the raging jock, it just felt like caricatures all around. And while our leading protagonist, in typical noir fashion, does come wrapped in an air of mystery, “war vet with PTSD” isn’t a character trait. I actually think the book would have benefited from being a little longer, and giving us more time to get to know our main and secondary protagonists better. We did get some back story on some of the kids, but overbearing mother breeding self-righteous misogyny and disappointed father generating indiscriminate anger and so on, nothing felt more than cliché with these kids. Granted, some of them are here just to die, but if you’re going to give us any semblance of story about them and not just feed them mindlessly to the body mill than I want to feel something about them, not just feel they are cut and paste characters. The book hinted at wanting to be more robust with its characters, but it never quite got there, and the short length may have been part of the reason. And, lastly, there was absolutely no reason to set this story in the 80s, and it is only mentioned in passing. The story and characters aren’t developed enough to cash in on nostalgia in any meaningful way. My guess is this was just a convenient way to avoid the characters having contemporary technology, at least that is what it felt like. Other than serving that purpose, there is absolutely nothing that needed the 80s setting. If set in the present day then the protagonist couldn’t be a Vietnam vet with PTSD but America has offered more than enough wars in the Middle East since then and still refuses to show any meaningful concern for its vets well-being, so very little would have to change to make the story set in the present. If a story is set in a very distinct time period it should be for a reason, I want to feel that time period and its rules and customs and limitations and excesses as a character in the plot, and here it didn’t feel like it contributed anything. In brief, this wasn’t really for me, and I do feel like it was a little confused about what it wants to be and who it wants to speak to. But I enjoyed the story and the pacing and I don’t think this is a bad book, just not great. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but if you like YA-ish genre fiction and have boarding schools and supernatural mystery in your reading wheelhouse, this could very well click for you. I want to thank NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons, who gave me a complimentary eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    This was such a fun horror noir novella! It hits all the major beats I like in the genre: Mysterious cult, secluded island, something witchy and demonic afoot, 80s setting, nosy kids in way over their heads, a grumpy investigator, and a dash of gore. The pacing and length make 'Friend of the Devil' easily a single-sitting read. Lloyd balances multiple points if view in an enticing way that builds suspense and keeps you wondering which characters will stumble upon which reveals first. I adamantly This was such a fun horror noir novella! It hits all the major beats I like in the genre: Mysterious cult, secluded island, something witchy and demonic afoot, 80s setting, nosy kids in way over their heads, a grumpy investigator, and a dash of gore. The pacing and length make 'Friend of the Devil' easily a single-sitting read. Lloyd balances multiple points if view in an enticing way that builds suspense and keeps you wondering which characters will stumble upon which reveals first. I adamantly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, dark, exciting read. Thank you so much to netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read this earc in exchange for an honest review!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan Tunis

    There's not a lot to Friend of the Devil, but the dialogue is snappy and there's a deeply unexpected pivot late in the game. Bonus points for not belaboring the premise to run up the page count. There's not a lot to Friend of the Devil, but the dialogue is snappy and there's a deeply unexpected pivot late in the game. Bonus points for not belaboring the premise to run up the page count.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alison Wallace Projansky

    This is a creepy, sarcastic horror book, with unusual characters, and many surprises. I enjoyed the twists, and am hoping for more in this (possible) series. It is set in an elite boarding school, with an insurance man hired to find a stolen book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This was fun - not 'important' fiction by any means but fun ...and I was quite surprised at the end. I would enjoy a sequel. This was fun - not 'important' fiction by any means but fun ...and I was quite surprised at the end. I would enjoy a sequel.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    I wanted to like this book and started out very intrigued. It is about an old book that was stolen at a boarding school on a remote island. Luckily it was a quick read because it kept getting weirder and weirder. It wasn't my cup of tea but I think some readers, especially young adult, may really enjoy this action packed, supernatural book. Thank you netgalley for the ARC. I wanted to like this book and started out very intrigued. It is about an old book that was stolen at a boarding school on a remote island. Luckily it was a quick read because it kept getting weirder and weirder. It wasn't my cup of tea but I think some readers, especially young adult, may really enjoy this action packed, supernatural book. Thank you netgalley for the ARC.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Giulia

    Perfect book for the YA reader that loves action and mystery. I thought the writing flowed really well and of course it did Stephen Lloyd wrote this-he is an acclaimed writer. . I recommend to younger readers as I think they would really enjoy this its a fun mash up of different genres. . Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for a chance to read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebel Reads

    Yes, yes and more YES! I absolutely 100% enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Sam Gregory is a war veteran that now works for an insurance company as an investigator. He is assigned to a case of a missing book at an elite boarding school - and we come to find out this book isn't just an ordinary library classic. Oh no, this book has incredible value...of the paranormal kind. Just that alone is intriguing. But add in all of the characters and the side stories and I cou Yes, yes and more YES! I absolutely 100% enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Sam Gregory is a war veteran that now works for an insurance company as an investigator. He is assigned to a case of a missing book at an elite boarding school - and we come to find out this book isn't just an ordinary library classic. Oh no, this book has incredible value...of the paranormal kind. Just that alone is intriguing. But add in all of the characters and the side stories and I couldn't put it down! This is so clever, witty, freaky, violent, and funny, I was laughing out loud and shocked all at the same time. The dialogue between all of the characters is sublime. Every character from main to minor, down to the librarian, are right where they need to be. And did I mention I was shocked? I wasn't expecting the level of violence but I am so very glad it was there. I loved every single detail! And the ending is just too good to be true. I will absolutely read this one again. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It will come to no surprise to the reader that author Stephen Lloyd is a television writer. Friend of the Devil reads like a classic teen horror movie. That is not a criticism...this was a fun, fast read, and while there was no real character development, if you read to the end, you'll see why! Thank you to NetGalley and to G.P Putnam's Sons for the opportunity to read the eARC. It will come to no surprise to the reader that author Stephen Lloyd is a television writer. Friend of the Devil reads like a classic teen horror movie. That is not a criticism...this was a fun, fast read, and while there was no real character development, if you read to the end, you'll see why! Thank you to NetGalley and to G.P Putnam's Sons for the opportunity to read the eARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Becky Spratford

    Review in the April 2022 issue of Library Journal Three Words That Describe This Book: isolated setting, sinister, multiple pov DRAFT REVIEW: Sam is a military vet, with serious PTSD, turned insurance company investigator, called to an isolated boarding school off the coast of Massachusetts to settle a claim they have made on an irreplaceable rare book. Harriet is a headstrong, DnD loving school newspaper reporter who is sick and tired of being bullied. At first alone, in alternating storylines, an Review in the April 2022 issue of Library Journal Three Words That Describe This Book: isolated setting, sinister, multiple pov DRAFT REVIEW: Sam is a military vet, with serious PTSD, turned insurance company investigator, called to an isolated boarding school off the coast of Massachusetts to settle a claim they have made on an irreplaceable rare book. Harriet is a headstrong, DnD loving school newspaper reporter who is sick and tired of being bullied. At first alone, in alternating storylines, and then slowly converging as they work together, Sam and Harriet come to realize that there is more going on at Danforth Putman than meets the eye. There is an occult force underpinning the centuries old school, one that has wielded its power through that missing book, one that may be connected directly to the Devil himself. A compelling Horror Thriller with very wide appeal, Lloyd works a strong sense of place, claustrophobic and unsettling, to draw readers into the disturbing mystery before unleashing a stunning, sinister, and thought provoking twist that will both devastate and leave readers begging for another Sam and Harriet adventure*. Verdict: While it would be easy underestimate this novel a YA Riverdale** or Stranger Things knock off, especially since Lloyd is an award winning TV writer, the story is definitely more adult, as if Jack Reacher was called to the creepy school in Sarah Read's THE BONE WEAVER'S ORCHARD. NOTES: This one surprised me. It was going along like a boilerplate= Horror-Thriller but it evolved into something more thought provoking and deeply sinister than I was expecting. Ending was 100% nailed! This debut will have wide appeal. Riveredale is jokingly referred to and I think that is good. But this is more Jack Reacher goes to visit the school in Sarah Read's THE BONE WEAVER'S ORCHARD. A great entry into the satanic subgenre. Excited to write this review and let people know about this one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dave Taylor

    It's clear that author Stephen Lloyd was trying to channel young adult occult adventures like Stranger Things, but there are two fundamental problems I had with this book; it feels rushed and it completely lacks any charm with its clumsy, heavy-handed narrative. "Friend of the Devil" is set in an isolated 1980's boarding school and the protagonist is a former soldier who is now an insurance investigator. When the school files a claim for a valuable historic book, he shows up to learn more and ho It's clear that author Stephen Lloyd was trying to channel young adult occult adventures like Stranger Things, but there are two fundamental problems I had with this book; it feels rushed and it completely lacks any charm with its clumsy, heavy-handed narrative. "Friend of the Devil" is set in an isolated 1980's boarding school and the protagonist is a former soldier who is now an insurance investigator. When the school files a claim for a valuable historic book, he shows up to learn more and hopefully track the stolen goods down. Sam, however, lacks any apparent social graces and slams violently from encounter to encounter with the young residents. The teachers and administrators are even weirder, and yes, there's the obligatory D&D game in the basement that doesn't really contribute much to the story at all. The end twist is neat, albeit inconsistent with the earlier portions of the book, but Lloyd also can't seem to figure out his audience, offering what is essentially a YA storyline but with a violent and aggressive protagonist. There are gruesome deaths that are completely unnecessary to the narrative and the last chapter reads like it was completed with a rushed writing session to meet a deadline. Sorry to report, this is one of the least enjoyable titles I've read this year.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    TL;DR Friend of the Devil is a fast-paced, character driven mystery mixed with a horror novel set at an exclusive boarding school of the coast of Massachusetts. Stephen Lloyd created fascinating characters that push the pace and surprise us. Highly recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions that follow are mine alone. Review: Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd Sometimes, an excellent cover is all it takes t TL;DR Friend of the Devil is a fast-paced, character driven mystery mixed with a horror novel set at an exclusive boarding school of the coast of Massachusetts. Stephen Lloyd created fascinating characters that push the pace and surprise us. Highly recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions that follow are mine alone. Review: Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd Sometimes, an excellent cover is all it takes to sell me on a book. I have a particular soft spot for when it’s a picture of a person with another scene overlaid on the person’s body. This is why I first noticed Stephen Lloyd’s Friend of the Devil. Yes, the cover has nothing to do with what’s inside the book at all. But look at it, that’s a beautiful cover that hints at so much. Then I read the phrase “demonic detective novel” in the description, and boom, I was hooked. I loved Friend of the Devil, and I look forward to what Lloyd publishes next. Off the coast of Massachusetts, a crime was committed at a boarding school for the elite. A rare book was stolen from the library, and the insurance company has sent in their detective, Sam Gregory, to find the book and avoid the big insurance payout. After all, it’s an island; so, the book can’t have gone far. Sam sets about looking for the book, finding oddities within the school as his investigation progresses. At the same time, Harriet, a student, looks for the students in werewolf masks who interrupted her Dungeons and Dragons game with firecrackers. The harassment led to Harriet having an epileptic seizure. Being a journalist, Harriet wants to write an exposé on bullying and jock culture at the private school. Her investigation leads her down the dark side of Danforth Putnam. Drugs, steroids, sex tapes, and more are just the beginning. Meanwhile someone or something is stalking the students, killing them without notice. Sam and Harriet soon learn that the little island school is much more than just a launching point for the elite. Friend of the Devil is a close, omniscient point of view novel that switches back and forth between Sam and Harriet’s investigations. It’s fast paced without sacrificing characterization. Both Sam and Harriet are fantastic characters that have us rooting for them throughout. Sam’s part of the story reads more as a hard-boiled detective novel, which worked for me. Harriet’s portion is a bit more straight forward without the hard-boiled stylistic flourishes. Yet, it works because of this. Her portion balances Sam’s without making the story dip too far into the hard-boiled style. Point of View Friend of the Devil has an odd point of view (POV) structure. It has a close omniscient POV. The story dips into the heads of the characters that are in proximity of both Harriet and Sam. Lloyd does it so smoothly that it took me a couple chapters to realize what was going on. This POV style can be hard to pull off, but Lloyd does it here. The result is a much fuller narrative that makes side characters into more rounded individuals instead of just suspects necessary for the narrative. It works so well that the reader understands the suspects and their motivations. They may not be sympathetic, but they’re understandable. That goes a long way towards making realistic characters. Any omniscient POV is hard to pull off because there’s so much movement between characters that it confuses the readers. However, Lloyd makes it very clear what’s happening and whose head we’re in. Ultimately, it’s the character work that Lloyd did for each individual that makes it work. They’re all interesting in their own ways. A few characters would be caricatures without Lloyd giving us their back stories. The jock who takes steroids? The poor kid drug dealer? These are stereotypes. In the hands of a lesser author, they would feel one dimensional and more plot device than person. However, Lloyd digs in, does the work, and constructs them based on their own actions, choices, and motivations. Lloyd’s characters succeed because he took them seriously rather than short handing them. The novel is all the better for it. Pacing This book moves fast. It’s only 240 pages long according to the publisher (I read an eBook version). The combination of short chapters, focused character work, and selective editing boiled the story down to the very essentials. The whole story moves continually forward. Even the back stories and flashbacks move fast. There really isn’t much pausing and reflecting, which normally is something that bothers me. It works in this book, though. I think that’s partly because it is such a short work. Partly, it’s because the flashbacks and character work act as points of reflection without slowing the narrative. Finally, the pacing also works because the book is hyper-focused. There’s no outside world building. There’s no page long description of meals. We don’t know how many teachers, let alone kids, are at the school. The reader is only given information relevant to that moment in the story. I can’t tell you what the grounds, dorms, or class rooms look like. Here, that works. If this were an epic fantasy, I’d be upset about that. But Friend of the Devil is a mystery/horror novel. Even if the author chooses to write another book about Sam or Harriet, I doubt he’ll be visiting Danforth Putnam again. So, we, the readers, don’t need all that information. Instead we get a hyper-focused narrative that, frankly, provides an excellent counterpoint to a lot of the door-stopping bricks that novels are becoming. Conclusion Stephen Lloyd’s Friend of the Devil was a book I didn’t know I needed to read. Its character focused, close omniscient POV was fantastic. I couldn’t put the novel down, and I’d bet you won’t be able to either. 7.5 out of 10!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    This was a weird one and a bit of a mess. I chose this egalley because I was interested in the ancient manuscript at the center of the plot. The story takes place in a New England boarding school. The atmosphere felt more British than American to me. Parts of this story were interesting and engaging. However, I could not always tell if the weird sequences were supposed to be dreams, hallucinations or actual events. Maybe that was the point. For me, it just didn't work. This is supposed to be a boo This was a weird one and a bit of a mess. I chose this egalley because I was interested in the ancient manuscript at the center of the plot. The story takes place in a New England boarding school. The atmosphere felt more British than American to me. Parts of this story were interesting and engaging. However, I could not always tell if the weird sequences were supposed to be dreams, hallucinations or actual events. Maybe that was the point. For me, it just didn't work. This is supposed to be a book about evil forces, which is not my preferred subject matter, though I have liked plenty of supernatural horror novels in the past. Maybe readers who enjoy this genre or read it more often than I do may like this story. I finished this book a couple of days ago and have already forgotten how it ended. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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