Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: The Devil's Weekend by Jim Bronyaur

This is another one of those reviews that has kind of been languishing on the back burner.  In fact it's at the top of the list from my review backlog going in order, so here it is at long last.  The Devil's Weekend by Jim Bronyaur is the story of the final murder spree of Oliver Ignis.  Oliver has terrorized his childhood home town of Damon, Pennsylvania since childhood, earning the nickname "The Anything Killer", due to the fact that his crimes are perpetrated a'la Jason Vorhees and Michael Meyers, where anyone can be a victim and anything can be a weapon.  Unfortunately for Oliver his time to kill is coming to an end, with the police and an investigative reporter closing in on his true identity.

Just as Oliver is wondering what his final move might be the Devil appears to him with a unique proposition.  Oliver will be able to kill anyone and as much as he wants for an entire weekend without anything happening to him, weapons can not harm him and he can not be captured.  If he accepts and makes it through the entire weekend, obeying one simple rule that the Devil forgets to mention, then Oliver will be free to continue on living a normal life, only at the cost of his soul.

The concept is innovative and unique, and I found it intriguing as well as original.  I had pretty much expected the story to be a non-stop bloodbath once the meeting with the Devil was over, had been prepared for it before I even started reading the first page.  However Broyaur manages to present Oliver pretty much in the fashion of reality, showing us someone who has had to plan and hide for years slowly adapting to a new situation.  He tests the waters for several chapters, his confidence building, and it is not until closer to the end that he tries to really pick up his pace.

As unique and as innovative as The Devil's Weekend is, it is not without its flaws.  The novel's erstwhile hero, Detective Ralph Samuels, is a heavy handed protagonist who would probably be more at home in a novel set sometime in the 1980's, back when the police had the balls to be a little more rough with suspects and witnesses.  There are a couple of subplots, such as one characters underdeveloped sense of clairvoyance, that seems to be introduced to give the story a more King or Koontz feel, yet falls flat because the information comes out more than halfway into the novel, and really adds zero impact to the story.  There are long tracts of story told before the point of view switches to another character to give an equally long description of the same thing, sometimes done with up to three characters.  I feel the story would have been better served if the POV changes had come a bit quicker, cutting the scenes and intervals down to help the scene in its entirety move at a faster pace.  There are more than a couple of usage errors, so as with many things I have looked over a reviewed this past year Bronyaur needs to watch his tenses.

In his Author's Note at the end of the novel, titled This Novel Shouldn't Have Happened, Bronyaur admits that the idea for the story had come to him and that the novel was written quickly.  And I agree, this novel was written and published quickly, a little too quickly.  I'm not necessarily going to slam Bronyaur as I pretty much rushed The Sound Of her MASTER'S VOICE into publication on the spur of the moment, and here eight months later I am slowly going through it to remove misspellings, and other simple corrections I didn't take the time to do in the moment.

It is in the Author's Note that Bronyaur says that the character of Gary Thas becomes a "show stealer", which he does despite the fact that this character is barely seen or even relevant, until well into the last quarter of the book.  I hate to imagine what another author's characters or story should be, but my own writing instinct tells me that this novel was not the story of a serial killer, but the story of two serial killers, one overly active and the other (should have) been presented as having been dormant for several years.  Had this novel been split more evenly between Oliver and Gary (making Gary into a serial killer as well), instead of being 98% about Oliver and 2% Gary, who suddenly causes his downfall at the end of the story, it would have taken it to a higher level, perhaps even into Six Star territory.

For all it faults The Devil's Weekend is not some hack novel that should be avoided.  On the contrary, just like with Thomas Scopel's Twitch, it is worth a look at to get a look at the parts that do work, Bronyaur's story telling and his unique take on a cautious and careful serial killer suddenly unleashed to kill without fear of consequence that is presented in a realistic manner.  Overall I give The Devil's Weekend Three and A Half Stars, and can't wait to see how Bronyaur's skill and storytelling develop over time.

You can find out more about Jim Bronyaur at his website or follow him on Twitter @JimBronyaur.

Here's where you can find your copy of The Devil's Weekend:

Barnes & Noble:

Master Vyle

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