“Everything in this book is true. I sincerely wish that it wasn’t. Maybe someday it won’t be true. I wish I could be alive then.”
It is a humbling experience to read a review from a reader that convinces you immediately that they understood your book 100%! I had my doubts at times that I achieved what I set out to accomplish with ‘The Devil Within Us’, but this review, no matter how concise, reassured me on that point.
The story begins with a nod to high adventure, an attack by a group of international agents on the mountain lair of a villain threatening world peace; very much in the style of Doc Savage or James Bond. It ends on top of another mountain, deep in a jungle, with the establishment of a beacon of hope in the growing darkness of the 1930’s as World War Two begins to loom. In-between the beginning and the end the story examines how things are rarely as they first appear to us and that one person’s agenda can be both good and bad at the same time, it all depends on your perspective.
‘The Devil Within Us’ examines some dark themes. Racism, sexism, imperialism, and even a kind of extremism are included. Perhaps the most important for me is the notion that our society has failed, by which I mean that all the social ills that we perceive today exist because they have been allowed to do so by those in power. Poverty, hunger, unemployment, excessive privilege, disease, slums, mortality rates, wars, crime, the list is depressingly long. On the surface ‘The Devil Within Us’ might not seem like that kind of book, so serious in its intent, but then, as I said, things are rarely as they first appear to be. It contains many of the staples of an adventure thriller, a femme fatale, a hero, gunmen, long journeys to exotic places, murder, fights, but it also looks deeper into the fabric of our society and suggests what else it might become.
Becoming something else is also a major theme. Artemisia Montessori embodies it. At the beginning she is a cold-blooded assassin working for the Italian government. At the conclusion she is a person who wants to live a life that does not include murder and violence. Can a leopard change its spots, she asks? Her journey injects a little optimism into the story. If you have read any of my previous posts then you will know that I consider myself an optimist therefore this development is to be expected. The world in 1933 may be heading inevitably into the catastrophe of World War Two, there was nothing I could do to alter that, but it did not have to do so without some hope that would extend well beyond the 20th century. I believe that there is some inherent goodness in humanity, our weakness is and always has been apathy, as Helen Keller noted.