Book Review: "The Devil's Song" by Lauren Stahl
Lauren Stahl Uses Her Experience in Law to Craft an Impressive Debut Novel
Before I begin this review I must state that this could have been a very awkward article. To my knowledge, it's the first book I have ever reviewed which is written by an author whom I know and I must explain that before I get into the review itself.
In June of 2013, I was at the residency for Wilkes University's Masters in Creative Writing Program in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which I was just about to begin my second semester for and was looking forward to beginning my thesis teleplay for. By this time I was (mostly) fully acquainted with everyone in the program and at the after-party on the final night at the hotel, I saw one of the faculty members chatting with a woman who was an alumni by this point (Lauren) and he asked her, "Do you know Chris?" And, to my surprise, she replied, "Yes, we spoke in January." I squinted and said, "Did we?" In my defense, I must have spoken to about seventy people that previous January. But once I realized who she was, I friended Lauren Stahl on Facebook. After speaking to her a bit, wondered what she could have possibly written about in the program. Then I kicked myself and remembered she was an Assistant District Attorney in Northeastern Pennsylvania, thus had a plethora of experience to draw from for whatever in the world she wrote about at Wilkes University.
When this book was announced as coming out this year under Akashic Books' Kaylie Jones Books imprint, I had remembered hearing Lauren read from it, very well I might add, at the last residency I attended. So I did as I promised when I was able to do so and downloaded the book to my Nook when it was released. When I said this could have been a very awkward article, I meant because if I didn't like the book I would have felt terrible about it even if I am not extremely close to Mrs. Stahl. But thankfully there's nothing awkward to be found here. Apparently this book was the big hit at the recent Wilkes residency which I was unable to attend, and is selling like hot cakes on Amazon and I am happy to say it deserves it.
The story deals with Kate Magda, a young Assistant District Attorney in fictional Mission County, PA. She is assigned to the Reds case, a serial killer who is murdering women with red hair. Aiding her is Detective Sam Hart, with whom she has a very complicated relationship and that's all I'll say about that. Kate is ambitious, as prominent ADAs tend to be, and she is the daughter of the area's President Judge as well, so she sees this case as her chance to move up the legal ladder. But as she gets deeper into the case, she realizes she just may be the killer's next victim. That's really all I can say about it without giving it away.
As someone who doesn't read many legal thrillers or watch them on screen, I thought it would be a tough read for me. And while, since I'm a pretty straight-laced person, there was a lot of legal jargon and banter I didn't get, I had to expect that as it was penned by a genuine ADA. That just meant it was realistic just like the characters are, and speaking of the characters, you could easily picture yourself running into these kind of people in real life if you ever got in trouble with the law.
While I'm not very well-versed in legal thrillers, I know enough about mystery and detective stories to know that when you write them, you have to keep your readers guessing to keep them interested enough to turn the page. Lauren does this skillfully. As a writer myself, I am big on twists in my own plots when they are required and there are several doozies in this book, all of which make me anxious for the inevitable next installment because I found this one to be a real page turner and I don't see why I wouldn't find further exploits of Kate to be page turners as well.
On a scale of four stars, I'd say I'd give this book three and a half. The half is for the jargon the author understood better than me. Highly recommended.