"The Devil You Know" by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Who Should Read This: Mystery/Thriller fans, anyone who enjoyed The Silent Wife, Before I Go To Sleep, The Girl on the Train, etc.

The year is 1993 and the city of Toronto and surrounding areas are haunted by the disappearance and murders of two young girls.  Evie Jones is the rookie reporter assigned to cover the story, staking out the crime scene and digging around in the past to look at over a decades worth of missing girls.

But all of this brings back the haunting memories of when Evie was eleven years old and her best friend Lianne Gagnon was kidnapped and murdered.  Though the police knew who did it, a man named Robert Cameron, he was never found and arrested.  

As her work takes her into a troubling world, she decides to find out what really happened to Lianne.  But her queries make her mind race toward unimaginable places.  And when she catches a man standing outside her home, watching her through the window, she becomes convinced that not only is Robert Cameron still out there, he may be coming for her.

The Devil You Know, by Elisabeth de Mariaffi, is a thrilling debut novel, one that will keep you spooked with each turn of the page and will stay with you long after you finish the book.

Anyone who grew up in the Toronto area in the 1990’s remembers the grip that the disappearances of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy had on the city.  Though I was still young, I remember the way it changed the way we felt while outside, the way teachers and parents would remind us to stay in groups, the way the news had you on the lookout for the suspicious Camaro car.  The arrests, the discovery of the terrors inflicted on young women and the city, have made Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka two of Canada’s most notorious criminals.  Even now, the names immediately conjure up everything we felt at the time.  

While this book is set against the backdrop of these crimes, it is not a true crime novel.  It examines what happens to a community when a young girl goes missing, the paranoia and anxiety felt by women who are always looking over their shoulders wondering if they are alone, and the terror that sweeps a city knowing that a dangerous criminal on the loose.  de Mariaffi wraps all of this up into one chilling, thriller novel.

This is de Mariaffi’s first full length novel.  She is an established, terrific writer of short stories and this book is a good start.  Much of the book is spent setting up the fear and anxiety of the situation, creating an atmosphere that is rife with tension and fear.  It is an emotional ride that is difficult to put down.  I do wonder though, if I hadn’t lived through this time, would it have been as gripping for me.  


This building of emotion is the strength of this book.  I haven’t read a thriller novel that has created such tension in my mind, that hasn’t made me feel such physical anxiety, probably ever.  But unfortunately, I found the resolution of the mystery to be weaker than I was expecting, given the strength of the writing to start with.

As I said, this book is a good start, a good debut novel.  While I haven't read a lot of mystery/thriller books to compare with, I think that fans of the genre will really enjoy this one.  

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