Lisa Jackson is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, plain and simple. Devious is only the second novel of hers that I have read, and while I did not enjoy it as much as Without Mercy, I love her writing style and her ability to maintain suspense over 400+ pages. Some may feel that the novel is longer than necessary and although there is some agreement from me there, the rich back story allows you to get to know the characters and develop an understanding and appreciation for the issues they deal with.
The novel opens, as so many do, with a gruesome murder scene. A young nun in New Orleans, Camille, has high hopes for the festivities of the evening, but her night goes horribly wrong when she is brutally killed in a church. On the other side of town, her older sister Valerie is battling her own demons, but can’t shake an eerie feeling that all is not well with her sister. Estranged after Camille and Valerie’s soon-to-be-ex husband Slade had a ‘moment’ together, the two women had recently attempted to reconcile their differences. Both adopted from orphanage St. Elsinore’s after their biological parents were killed, Val had softened towards her sister once Camille told her she was pregnant and ready to leave the convent. However, the promise of a brighter future is shattered when two detectives (Jackson’s long-standing duo Bentz and Montoya) arrive with the horrible news that Camille has been murdered.
Camille was a nun at the rigid and orthodox St. Marguerite’s, a parish with some dark secrets. The prime suspect is Father Frank O’Toole, a handsome young priest who seems to find the celibacy gig a bit tough. He seems to be the man with everything to lose, but as Bentz and Montoya dig into the history of St. Marguerite’s, they start to think something far more sinister is at work behind the walls of the parish. When another nun is found dead, the pressure is on the detectives to make some progress to catch the sadistic killer. Another victim turns up, with a creepily similar MO from a serial killer who is presumed dead (from Jackson’s previous novel Hot Blooded), and the detectives must re-assess everything they thought they knew about the case and the terrifying killer known as Father John.
Full of mystery, secrets, and revelations, Devious takes a little perseverance to get in to, but once you’re there, it gets you good. Jackson is a master at leaving you hanging right till the very last page, and while this book didn’t wrap up as neatly as others have (there are quite a few loose ends), I will eagerly await her next Bentz and Montoya novel as I firmly believe a writer of her calibre wouldn’t leave ends loose unless they were to be tidied up in the future.