It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorising the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs. In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.
Cory Barclay is an author, songwriter and guitarist from San Diego California. “Devil in the Countryside” is his second novel.
Now, I love a bit of historical fiction. I’m a big history fan, and when done well, historical fiction can shine a light on events of the past, whilst creating new and exciting situations for the reader – something Cory Barclay has most certainly done on this occasion. “Devil in the Countryside” is a dark read -full of death and gore, but Barclays expertly balances this out – the overwhelming darkness of the world that surrounds these characters is brightened out, at least initially, by the motivations and personalities of the characters who fill this book. All are compelling – none are straight forward and all have very individual personalities, meaning that the distinct viewpoints that Barclay employs throughout the book are easy to follow. These characters are layered and well developed – all regularly make decisions that are not always easy to empathise with, but Barclay sells their motivations and drive to the reader well. It’s particularly fascinating to see how the characters develop alongside the plot – seeing the effect that the investigation at the core of the plot has on the characters is particularly compelling, and drives the reader towards the compelling conclusion.
In terms of historical fiction, Barclay manages to keep this a relatively light read – he doesn’t go overboard on exposition, but one still comes out of this read feeling relatively enlightened on the subject of the Germany of the late 1500’s. Little facts and details are dropped in throughout, and whilst there are a few pages that are fairly heavy on sharing facts with the reader, one is invested enough to not care – and in fact they add a good level of depth to an already compelling story.
A skin prickling, puzzling, page turner – “Devil in the Countryside” is a fun read and Barclay is an author with a strong command of language and a talent for fantastic structuring a cracking story – bring on the sequel!