I have only just come across Mark Edwards this summer– thanks to Queen of Thrillers Elizabeth Haynes, who recommended him as one of her favourite authors. With such an endorsement, how could I not investigate further! I borrowed “The Magpies” from the library and loved it.
So, I was delighted when Mark Edwards contacted me with the offer of reading his new title, “The Devil’s Work” before publication – a novel C L Taylor (also a huge fan!!) claims to be his best yet.
“The Devil’s Work” is a gripping, psychological thriller; this time set in an office with the protagonist, Sophie Greenwood, becoming caught up in a nightmare that soon puts her whole family at risk.
I like that Edwards chooses a very familiar setting, as he did with “The Magpies” which focusses on the tenants in a shared building of flats. There is something beautifully claustrophobic about Edwards’ choice of setting for "The Devil's Work". Immediately, the office suggests an environment of intense relationships, competition, convoluted etiquette, invisible rules, games, stress and tension (or is that just me?!). We are all able to relate to the familiarity of an office setting and, for even more dramatic effect, we can probably all identify with some of the traits portrayed by the characters we meet there. Once he’s introduced everyone, Edwards callously starts to stir in an unhealthy dose of paranoia, office politics, jealousy, insecurity and we read on, helplessly enthralled as the character’s lives begin to unravel and events spin out of control in a completely chilling and unsettling manner.
I could have put this book down; I just did not want to.
Nothing beats that feeling of starting a new book and almost letting out a sigh of relief as you realise the style, pace, flow and language is absolutely just what you're in the mood for. It was as if Edwards had pushed me back into the depths of my armchair and tied me to it with threads of a narrative that I was not going to attempt to release myself from until the last page was turned.
The characters are convincing. As a male author, Edwards captures Sophie very well. She is a mother returning to work and her anxiety, fears and pressures are portrayed through a very natural narrative and dialogue. There were points in the novel when I was almost squinting in a “I can’t watch this” way while simultaneously knowing I would behave exactly the same if put in the same situation and under the same pressure. Sophie is a professional, ambitious, competent employee but when undermined and manipulated in such a way that she cannot tell who is responsible -or why they might be doing it- such an atmosphere of tension is created it makes me feel sick just recalling it now! Everyone can imagine that moment when all the emotional pressure from your own expectations, as well as from others, gets too much and results in some explosive scenes.
The novel has a dual storyline shifting between Sophie’s university life in 1999/2000 and her friendship with the enigmatic Jasmine, and the storyline set in 2015 where she is a wife and mother, returning to work and facing subsequent issues with assistant Cassie. I liked the way the headings were used to clearly distinguish between the sections. The back story just gave the date, plain and simple: “Sunday 9th Jan 2000”, whereas the main story was headed with the more ominous “Day 1”, “Day 5”, “Day 16” etc, charting each day Sophie had spent in her new job. The reader is therefore aware that the book is moving towards something more monumental and this technique was really effective. We also realise that the back story is important and wait with baited breath as Edwards cleverly marries the two plots together.
The imposing figure of Franklin Bird, owner of Jackdaw publishing, is deliciously disconcerting. His comments about how to discipline children are disturbing and his reference to the company as a “family” exaggerate the claustrophobic feeling of entrapment.
Cassie is also an inspired character. The type you love to hate. The office assistant that everyone loves apart from Sophie; her work, attitude and manners are impeccable but there is just something Sophie can’t put her finger on……..Or, is Sophie really falling apart and suffering more mental stress than she cares to admit? Who are we to believe?
At about 55% of the way through, events take such a twisty turn that I was left shivering and covered in goosebumps. The only words I can think of to describe the second half of the novel are spooky, creepy and eerie. I was reminded of scenes from “The Sixth Sense” or “The Others”. From here on, the % tracking on my kindle was almost a blur as the pages ramped up to a climatic ending that leaves me reeling.
Oh yes, this novel is indeed the Devil’s work!
I really would recommend this book. Edwards' writing style is effortless, absorbing, and engaging. This story flows well and all the details, depictions and characters are instantly visual, realistic and believable. You will be hooked from the outset. Edwards is fast becoming one of my “go to” authors for a fast, easy, reliable thriller that will completely take over my life for the short time it takes me to race through it.
My thanks to Mark Edwards and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.
"The Devil's Work" by Mark Edwards is published on 13th September 2016.
I would also recommend "The Magpies" and my review can be found here: http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-magpies-mark-edwards.html