The Devil Takes You Home
by Gabino Iglesias
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted July 26, 2022
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Thanks to Net Galley for the e-ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. The Devil Takes You Home will be released in one week, August 2. My comments will be brief, mainly an overview of the characters and their motivations. It's very violent and brutal, which is usually not to my taste, but Gabino is excellent at setting a scene and getting you inside the head of a character, even sympathizing with someone you'd definitely want to avoid in real life.
For at least the first half of the book I was thinking this review would go in the Non-SF section, but then several supernatural elements were introduced. Before that, the main character, Mario, did have some disturbing visions, and he claimed that might be an ability he had inherited from his mother. But those could be dismissed as waking dreams brought on by trauma. His trauma derived from the death of his four-year-old daughter from leukemia, and the dissolution of his marriage to Melisa, both of which he felt were his fault. The former due to being poor and unable to get Anita the care and treatment she needed, the latter from his temper which caused a fight with his wife that could have been avoided. He was very good (bad really) at blaming Melisa or others for a lot of his problems, not the least of which being what he thought was Melisa missing the signs of Anita's condition until it was too late.
Mario had an acquaintance, Brian, not really a friend but someone he hung out with on occasion. Brian was a meth-head, wasting away even while he knew he should get cleaned up because his wife Stephanie is pregnant. Stephanie is described as very pretty, clean and healthy, hardly the type one would expect to be attracted to a meth-head, but I guess it takes all kinds. Brian has connections, and not just for drugs. Mario is out of work and depressed, but Brian gets him hooked up with others who contract him to be a hitman. After about four kills Brian presents another possibility. Knocking off a band of drug cartel goons who are returning to their bosses with a large sum of cash. The person heading up that operation is Juan Carlos, known as Juanca to most. Every step along the way Mario questions himself as to why he is following such disreputable people, but then again, he's done despicable things himself, plus…lots of money. He even has a (probably mistaken) notion that with money he can get Melisa back.
The supernatural elements are essentially deals with the devil, devils that take different forms, the results also differing depending on the result desired. One produces a zombie that helps in the climactic gunfight. There are also weird creatures, briefly glimpsed and confusingly described, that dwell in the tunnels they use to get from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, and back. I might have thought they were just other figments of Mario's imagination, except that Juanca and Brian saw them too. I will not say anything else about the plot, other than there are multiple betrayals along the way, some suspicions just being paranoia that weren't justified. Or were they? The supernatural elements didn't make it any more brutal, but they did make it a lot weirder. The previous book by Iglesias I reviewed, Coyote Songs was similar, enough that I ended that review saying it might give me nightmares. I fear the same about this one. As much as I despised what most of the characters did and said, I was still fascinated by them, and maybe in defiance of my first instincts, I am giving this a recommendation.
ADDENDUM: Forgot to mention that a lot of the dialog is in Spanish. Some is immediately translated by Mario, who is the first-person narrator, others can be guessed or approximated through context. You might want to have a Spanish-English dictionary on hand.
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