The manuscript of I Shot The Devil by Ruth McIver won the coveted Richell Prize for Emerging Writers in 2018. It certainly has it all. McIver’s writing is eloquent and stylistic, we’re offered an intriguing plot as well as interesting and complex characters.
I found the pacing a little rushed as we neared the conclusion and was a tad confused about who did what, but that’s probably more about my attention span than anything else.I Shot the Devil
by Ruth McIver
Published by Hachette Australia
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
I used to think that I'd escaped Southport . . .Now I realised, Southport had been coming for me all this time.
Erin Sloane was sixteen when high school senior Andre Villiers was murdered by his friends. They were her friends, too, led by the intense, charismatic Ricky Hell. Five people went into West Cypress Road Woods the night Andre was murdered. Only three came out.
Ativan, alcohol and distance had dimmed Erin's memories of that time. But nearly twenty years later, an ageing father will bring her home. Now a journalist, she is asked to write a story about the Southport Three and the thrill-kill murder that mesmerised the country. Erin's investigation propels her closer and closer to a terrifying truth. And closer and closer to danger.
McIver deftly ekes out details of Erin’s past and her relationship with players from around the time of the deaths – most specifically those with her boyfriend Danny and lover Ricky. Weirdly this was the second book in a row I’d read about sociopathic or psychopathic teenagers though of course here, we learn their actions are driven by drugs (and happenstance) rather than their own sadistic pleasure. (Even more weirdly both books involved daughters finding a stash of money left by their fathers!)
Though Erin’s focussed on the deaths of Andre and Ricky and subsequent fallout, she has to consider links between a number of missing children from around the same time. She learns Andre was a key suspect, though dead before the third (and final) child murdered.
In addition to Erin’s younger years and loss of her mother and sister, there’s a strong focus on her police officer father RP. He’s got dementia in the present and so didn’t feature other than via Erin’s continued antipathy towards the alcoholic and possibly corrupt former-cop.
McIver’s writing is stylistic and smooth (though at the same time deceptively complex).
I used to think that I’d escaped Southport, but as I got older I realised that I’d simply absorbed the town into my system, like when I ate a nickel as a kid and never saw it re-emerge. Southport had become part of my intimate geography, ingrained and shadowy. p 7
I long had an atavistic knowledge that the past was not going to stay contained forever, but it had managed to sit there, mostly undisturbed for sixteen years. Now I realised, Southport had been coming for me all this time. p 17
I really liked Erin. She’s certainly flawed and though we learn of a number of events taking place in her teenage years, I wondered about the subsequent decade. With a steady prescription drug habit she’s obviously still grappling with her past and I guess we wonder if this investigation will give her closure.
The entire novel unfolds in first person via Erin. In addition to her memories she writes her own entries (testimonies, she calls them) and is offered insights from one of the other players from that time. Of course she doesn’t know how truthful they’re being and a lot of lies and mis-stories still seem to be bandied about. All of these years later.
Although we eventually learn what happened on Halloween in 1994 and get more context of other events around the time there were still a couple of unanswered questions for me, including motivation behind some of the actions and in addition around the missing children. Of course I may have missed something or read too much into other reflections.
Either way, this is an enjoyable read and though we’re given a lot of detail towards the end McIver also balances the reveals and surprises throughout the novel.
I Shot The Devil by Ruth McIver was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.