The Devil’s Lieutenant

by Shervin Jamali

Synopsis

The Devil’s Lieutenant: Former policeman Michael’s life is destroyed when he returns home to find his child dead and his wife about to shoot herself. He descends into a morass of sorrow, guilt and drink until he is visited by the devil. The devil promises to release Michael’s family from their sufferings in hell if Michael will kill five people and take their souls for the devil’s use. Michael agrees and so begin his years of killing. After four murders, God appears to him and offers him a chance at redemption but Michael, fearing for his family, refuses. The devil’s promises, however, are never to be trusted.

Theme of the Book

The Devil’s Lieutenant is a book about suffering and the search for redemption. Michael suffers not only from the tragic deaths of his family but from his guilt at having left his bedside cabinet unlocked and thus his gun available. He seeks redemption, not for himself, but for his wife and child. The question of whether he can be successful is a difficult one. Can he redeem his family through a pact with pure evil?

What I liked About the story

Mr. Jamali has produced a very well-written novella. The character of Michael is clearly defined and, though he becomes a murderer, is sympathetic. The reader will suffer with Michael who begins his career of killer with reluctance but acceptance. We watch him change over time to a man who nearly enjoys killing, especially because those he kills are either killers themselves or generally evil people. We begin to hope that Michael’s pact with the devil will work out in his favor, but as in all ‘pact with the devil’ stories, there is a good chance that it will not.

The novella is fast-paced with little extraneous detail. Flashbacks give us Michael’s story: how he met his wife; their desire and struggle to have a child; the events leading up to the tragedy with which the novella opens. There is little definition of Michael’s victims. They are not important. They are simply a means to an end and so do not need to be well-defined characters.

The appearance of God in the novella provides the sole source of humor. God, it seems, is not a very good pool player! Michael rejects God’s offer of redemption, knowing he is trapped in the path he has chosen.

What I Didn’t Like About the story

The tone of the book is very depressing. We see a man trapped by his pact with evil and there is little hope he can escape.

Finally, for more sensitive readers, the amount of violence and bad language may be off-putting. The book is full of violent scenes: the deaths of Michael’s son and wife; each of his many murders; the final scene in which he tries unsuccessfully to kill the devil. The violence is an integral part of the story, but readers need to be aware of the nearly constant use of violent scenes.

Final Say

While The Devil’s Lieutenant is well written, I found myself wishing for the end. I found it a very depressing book with nary a glimmer of hope expressed. If the next in the series becomes available, I would probably read it but with misgivings.

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