The Devil’s City
By Sara Tantlinger & Matt Corley
H. H Holmes is an endlessly fascinating figure, a serial killer who built an elaborate hotel to trap his guests. His exact number of kills is unknown, and he is as infamous as Jack the Ripper. Some believe he was the Ripper, and both have served as inspiration for a number of different characters. Holmes most memorably, for me, in American Horror Story: Hotel. The Devil’s City is another addition to the story, where the character is very much Holmes himself, rather than inspired by the killer.
The story is split into sections, focusing on the victims and showing glimpses of their lives prior to Holmes’ involvement. The idea of focusing on the victims rather than the killer is a good one, as we should be able to connect to them rather than to him. However, that connection isn’t there for the most part. These characters feel like sacrificial stock lambs, placed in our path simply so we can see Holmes’ ‘genius’ methods. Yet many of his exploits are skipped over. A deeper exploration of these characters – rather than simply a snapshot – could have been more effective in this story. Similarly, we get a short section focused on Holmes himself, though this still feels superficial.
There are elements of this book that are intriguing, and if more time had been spent on deepening character or building tension, this would have made for an intriguing account of Holmes’ killing spree. The slow moments are where the beauty lies in The Devil’s City, when we get a little under the skin of the characters we’re following, but these moments are few and far between, and the story around them feels all too often rushed.
There’s also a supernatural element introduced in the tale, but this comes in too late, with no previous hints towards it, and shifted the story in a completely different direction, which I found a little off-putting.
The ending itself was intriguing, and for the last section of the book I found myself gripped by what was happening, and a little excited to see how it played out, but again the writing seemed rushed to get to this point, dampening what could have been a strong moment.
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Review by Elle Turpitt
I received this e-book from the authors for review consideration.