Title: Better the Devil You Know
Author: Bey Deckard
Pages/Word Count: 39000 Words
At a Glance: Sick, twisted, brutal, filled with the unexpected, and I loved it.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Byron is tall, handsome, well spoken, wealthy, and has outstanding taste in wine and food. You’ll be impressed by his impeccable attire and eloquence in conversation, ranging from Baroque art to the newest advances in pharmacology. With his charming smile and elegant manners, Byron truly is the perfect date… and who doesn’t love a man who appreciates opera?
What’s the catch, you ask?
Just this: if Byron finds you suitable, he will subject you to utterly depraved forms of torture.
No, I’m not talking about S&M.
Byron will mutilate, rape, and then kill you. Don’t think that you will survive the encounter, because you won’t. He has a perfect record.
Intrigued? Would you like me to arrange a rendezvous? It has to be in the next few days because he’s leaving on a trip south to much warmer climes, and his calendar will be completely full.
Yes? Very good. I will make a reservation for two under the name of Smith.
Who am I? I’m Gloria, his personal assistant.
Review: First off, let me say that one of the things I will never do is read a book that’s dark and twisted (a lot twisted), or one that contains material which some may consider triggers—or, situations that may just plain offend a person’s sensibilities—and then say, unequivocally, “You have got to read this book!” We all have comfort zones and boundaries, and pushing those boundaries doesn’t make anyone braver or more intellectual or more open-minded than someone who chooses not to do so. Having said that, I personally have been waiting a long time for this book in the M/M genre.
Okay, not this book, specifically (I’m still waiting for someone to write an M/M Jack the Ripper novel), but rather, a no-holds-barred psychological horror story along the lines of “I ate his liver with some Fava beans and a nice chianti,” only more graphic in detail and agitating in its horrifying displays of insanity. What I’ve been waiting for is a novel that would engage and repulse, all at the same time, and Bey Deckard has delivered in a big way with Better the Devil You Know, a perfectly twisted tale that looks at evil through the eyes of a serial killer, the devil, and questions a psychopath’s ability to be redeemed at the hands of Lucifer himself.
Byron Danielsen, former doctor and this story’s antagonist, is a sick son of a bitch (if you’ll pardon my français). John Wayne Gacy? Ted Bundy? Jeffrey Dahmer? Pfft. Byron makes their crimes seem uninspired and amateurish by comparison, and I’m in awe of Deckard’s imagination—which is one of the reasons I love this niche of fiction. No, I’m not living vicariously in any way through the genre, I’m not at all titillated by the extremes of perversion herein, but I am fascinated by the abnormal psychology of the depraved and irredeemable. When they say “truth is stranger than fiction” (in an ironic bit of perfection, a quote attributed to Lord Byron), they aren’t talking about books like Better the Devil You Know. It’s difficult enough to comprehend when we see crimes of a particularly brutal and aberrant nature on the news, but when we read a story such as this, all we can do is feel grateful the author’s imagination isn’t one born of experience…or fruitful as inspiration.
Byron is… what is Byron? He is repugnant yet is possessed of a certain charm and refinement, which is what makes him such a dangerous beast—what makes so many serial killers dangerous, in fact—their ability to blend in and to attract victims by preying on our inability to see what lurks behind the veil of normalcy. He has the advantage of luring his victims to him, masquerading as a human, if a little odd, when, in fact, there is a monster lurking beneath a hotbed of psychosis. That is what makes this book, and those like it, so terrifying—we know without question that human monsters exist. And his crimes against these innocents are of a nature so foul—if we can really measure murder by degrees of obscenity—that I was left with no other choice but to keep turning pages to see how the author would bring this story to a conclusion. And, I persevered gladly.
In an interesting genre-jump, the plot soon merges with the metaphysical when Byron must give the devil his due. Literally. The Prince of Darkness aims to make Byron pay for his depravity, sending him to Hell, where Byron must endure the ultimate in karmic payback in an effort to harvest even the smallest seeds of regret for his crimes. In an even more interesting twist, Lucifer becomes a sympathetic character when pitted against Byron, which was a fantastic juxtaposition in the flipping of roles, but remember, he is Lucifer, so even in our seeing him from a softer angle, he’s still Satan, still the Lord of Flies who is determined to make Byron remember the one victim he seems to have erased from his memories.
There is no doubt this book is compelling. There is no doubt this story is well written, never once sugarcoating Byron’s crimes or insanity. There is also no doubt whatsoever that this book is not a romance in any way. Nor is this a book that will appeal to anyone but the reader who loves a chilling and macabre and thoroughly bent antagonist.
Does Byron redeem himself in the end? Mmm… I shan’t even attempt to weigh out an opinion on that one. But, to quote another famous author, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
You can buy Better the Devil You Know here: