I Shot the Devil

Written by Ruth McIver

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.

I Shot the Devil
Tinder Press
RRP: £18.99
Released: August 19 2021

‘Let sleeping dogs lie, they bite when disturbed’.  But the warning from an old ex-cop comes too late for Erin Sloane as she begins to dig deep into the long-buried secrets of her home town.

It’s 2010, and she’s returned to Southport to take care of her widower father and ex-cop, RP, who has succumbed to dementia.  They were never close and he is the only family that she has left.  He took to drinking after the deaths of her mother and sister in a house fire for which he was a suspect.

But at her editor’s request, she is there to also write  a story about the town’s notorious murder – the Southport 3.  Denise has been contacted by email from a true crime website and feels that Erin with her insider knowledge would be the perfect writer to do it.

The case made national headlines and was seen as an example of ‘90’s teenagers in thrall to nihilism and Satanism.  On Halloween Night 1994, Andre Villiers a local teen, was beaten to death by 3 members of a gang of high school kids in the local woods.  Ricky Hell, the ringleader, was shot dead at the scene. by a local cop.   The 3 were Carole Jenkins, Cormac O’Malley and Danny Quinlan-Walsh.  They’ve all served their time and moved on.  Carole has discovered God and Danny is running his father’s boat business. 

But Erin was close to the case. In 1994 she was known as Eerie Erin and was keen to escape her dark family life. She went out with both Ricky and Danny and still bears the physical scars from the latter.  But after visiting Danny at the boat company office, he begins stalking her and sending her text messages about missing children.  For at the time of the murder, a child went missing and Andre was a suspect.  But children also went missing after he was dead.  What does Danny know about them?  Is he sending her a warning or a hint?

Erin soon becomes drawn into the world of conspiracies and cover-ups via the true crime website and she begins to wonder who she is actually talking to.  One email address belongs to a man who is dead but she’s received messages supposedly from him and she is lured back to the woods to have a disturbing encounter. Who is she really talking to?  What are they trying to tell her? Now that RP and his secrets are lost to her, Erin starts to look for clues and finds a large stash of money buried in a pet’s grave in the garden. Did someone pay him to keep quiet about what he knew? She is in a hall of mirrors where no one or nothing is what it seems.

It’s a portrait of bleak, fractured lives that were changed in an instant by the murder and its long-lasting aftermath.   The plot is labyrinthine and the reader may need more than one read to appreciate its complexity and its twists and turns. It’s a very ambitious story with its shifting timelines. It moves between 1994 and 2010 in flashbacks and the present day and through the true crime books written by 2 of the Southport 3: Carole and Cormac. I thought that the author did a remarkable job of holding all the plot strands together and I admired her ambition. 

A talent to watch.

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