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Review: The Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy Coffey

The Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy CoffeyThe Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy Coffey (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Jake and his wife, Kate, live under long-held regrets centering around one of their high school classmates, Phillip. Phillip’s death 20 years ago was ruled a suicide, but Jake and Kate each believe they killed him.

Jake is sheriff of the small mountain town of Mattingly, VA. He took the job because he’s desperate for peace, not because he’s strong like his father was. When violence rocks his town, Jake is out of his depth.

Characters like Jake and Kate feel real yet a touch distant, as if we’re peering into another world. Others like the hermit Taylor, are even more distant yet eerily believable. This separation may be due in part to the multiple points of view (each one expertly rendered) and to the switch from third person to first for Jake’s viewpoint. It’s probably a good thing, too, because it lets us read without being overwhelmed by the characters’ pain.

Billy Coffey’s writing impressed me from the start. The novel has a haunting, lyrical feel, and I understand why one reviewer called the author a minstrel. This is not my type of story, but I found much to appreciate in its pages. It’s deeper, introspective, literary. A slow read, not a race.

The title says “horror” to me, but the devil in question is the sins of the townsfolk. It’s eerie and supernatural, but definitely not the “screamfest” type of horror.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly digs into those regrets we all hold, big or small, and reminds us that although we can never undo the past or earn a pardon, there is forgiveness and grace if we’ll stop holding onto the past.

Favourite lines:

Jake: “I came into this world pure and unblemished, but I will leave it bearing all of my scars. My comfort rests in a grace that will mold those scars into the jewels of my crown.” p. 3

Narrator: “Few people knew of Charlie Givens. Those who did agreed that not only was he born to trouble, but the sole purpose of his head was to keep rain out of his neck.” p. 26

Jake: “It’s our desire to be left alone that causes evil to flourish in this world.” p. 187

Jake: “None of us can write a new beginning to our story. All we can do is start a new end.” p. 328

You can learn about Billy Coffey and his writing on his website, and if you sign up for his newsletter you’ll receive the opening chapters of The Devil Walks in Mattingly for free. You can read a shorter sample on the publisher’s website. The Devil Walks in Mattingly takes place four years before one of Mr. Coffey’s previous novels, When Mockingbirds Sing.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]