The Devil’s Only Friend by Dan Wells (John Cleaver book No.4)

The Devil’s Only Friend is the first in a new Trilogy starring John Wayne Cleaver.  There have apparently been three earlier books but The Devil’s Only Friend can be read as a standalone and indeed it’s not difficult to pick up on what took place previously.  Having said that I really enjoyed this and to a cetain extent wish I had picked up the previous books, even though I admit that I probably won’t do so now, but just purely from a character development perspective.

In The Devil’s Only Friend John is now working with the FBI.  His prior experiences dealing with, and by that I mean killing, demons (or the withered as they’re called here) make him a necessary part of the team.  He’s not completely trusted by his colleagues of course, and let’s face it that’s hardly a surprise given his personality.  John definitely suffers from an antisocial personality disorder – I would say that he is a sociopath (or maybe even a psychopath)?? and maybe his backstory would have been a bit more definitive in that respect.  For now I’m going with sociopath.  He fantasises, in a fairly calculated manner, about killing people and animals and he seems to have a set of rules by which he keeps his tendencies under control – including counting sequences.  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The world we’re dealing with here is a modern, everyday setting, the difference being that demons live amongst the humans.  They, for the most part, look human and integrate into society.  They’re very strong and dangerous though and for the purpose of this story they’re called the withered – because they lack something, something that they need in order to survive and something that they usually have to take, forcibly, from others.  John’s role here is to find out what that special ‘something’ is in each particular case so that the FBI can, in as carefully controlled and safe a setting as possible, kill the withered they’re currently tracking.  Now, the FBI, may finally be aware of the withered but that doesn’t mean that there doesn’t exist a LOT of doubt and skepticism and the team John works with is relatively understaffed and under resourced as a result.  A situation which isn’t going to help when the enemy becomes aware of their existence and decides to bring the war to them instead of remaining as sitting ducks.

I thought this was a really good read.  When I first picked it up I wasn’t sure if it would all be horror and whilst there is horror involved this is a bit deeper than that.  We of course have the withered – but these creatures are not simply evil – they’re driven themselves by whatever it is they lack.  Then we have John, and it’s difficult to really know yet whether I really like him or not as some of his internal thoughts are frankly a bit scary, who suffers from his own personality disorder and would be considered to be damaged or maybe even missing something fundamental to human nature himself.

There are a number of characters involved, none of them are really particularly well expanded upon – and I don’t mean that in a negative way but just more that they play a lesser role that John – and I will also just mention that the author is fairly ruthless with his cast so you might want to bear that in mind.

The one constant in John’s life, carried forward from his past experiences is Brooke – a previous friend/girl next door who has rather unfortunately become the hidden weapon in John and the FBI’s arsenal against the withered.  I won’t go too much into that other than to say she is an interesting character to read and I would enjoy more involvement from her.

The Devil’s Only Friends was a great start to this new series.  Part murder mystery, part horror, part psychological thriller with an unusual main protagonist.  I’m definitely interested in seeing how John develops.  Like I say, I’m not sure what to feel about him just yet although, in spite of his inner turmoil, he’s clearly not all bad and at least wants to be ‘better’.

I will definitely read on with this series.

I received a copy of this from the publishers via Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.