Devil's Slew: A Detective Barrett Raines Mystery
by Darryl Wimberley
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312649494
Date: 01 March 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
A swamp known as Devil's Slew is the center of much bloody violence in Northwestern Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. Special Agent "Bear" Raines of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is summoned to a trailer in the secluded swamp where a discharged marine, Quentin Hart, has taken his girlfriend hostage. Bear is forced to kill Quentin in self defense. Later that day, when darkness falls, a group of Quentin's friends (former marines who served together in Afghanistan) trudge through the treacherous swamp and retrieve two bags of counterfeit money. In the gulf, they deliver the bags to a yacht owned by a Mexican drug cartel known as the Zetas. Bear's investigation of a missing undercover agent, Brenda Mantle, forces him to investigate the former marines. Soon afterwards, the friends begin tragically dying one-by-one.
Darryl Wimberley's Devil's Slew is one of the most violent, gruesome, intricately plotted, suspenseful crime noirs I've read in a long time. It is also one of the most offensive in that it explores an overabundance of sensitive topics considered taboo, which include date rape, torture, racism and religious fanaticism. The story begins in Afghanistan where a young interpreter, Gulpari Bohtri, believes she's been raped; unfortunately, someone slipped her the drug Rohypnol and she can't remember the entire incident. Other victims have the same experience. The abducted Brenda Mantle is videotaped while being cruelly tortured. Racial slurs abound because Bear is an African American living in a predominately white, redneck community. Not since the O.J. Simpson trial have I heard the dreaded "N" word used so much. Also the word "cracker" is thrown around extensively and the author isn't referring to Saltine Crackers. It follows suit that the Hispanics would be called Spics.
Don't misunderstand me. I thoroughly enjoyed Devil's Slew. From the title alone, one would expect a violent, bloody crime noir of demonically evil proportions. Reading Devil's Slew was like watching a gruesome horror film; you know there are scenes that are going to offend you but the overall experience is bound to be exhilarating. I'm merely warning readers that some of them may be offended. As for myself, I was more annoyed than offended by the former marines who are depicted as religious fanatics, especially Dawana Jackson who is always misquoting Biblical verses. The former marines feel that donating 10% of their cut to the liberation of Afghanistan justifies their counterfeit money running.
The setting for Devil's Slew is a unique one in that it is a secluded, sparsely populated region of Northwestern Florida that most tourists don't ever see. It is very swampy. Devil's Slew is a treacherous swamp with a dark history of people disappearing within it, primarily escaping slaves and their pursuers. This swamp is infested with an abundance of dangerous wildlife including alligators, water moccasins, and feral hogs. Animal traps, such as the one drawn on the novel's dust jacket, have lain hidden for years; they reminded me of the landmines in Afghanistan. A bear trap can snap off a man's leg. The bear trap is symbolic for the traps that the Mexican cartel sets for Bear Raines.
Bear is a very admirable character; he and his entire family have battled racism and prejudice. He doesn't have any serious vices and he is diligent about finding the artist who created the counterfeit money and the marine responsible for raping Gulpari Bohtri. He could have easily forgotten about these criminals but is determined to bring closure. Both he and his wife Laura Ann are university educated; she owns a successful restaurant, Ramona's Place, and plays piano for her guests.
Darryl Wimberley's Devil's Slew is a fast-paced, expertly written thrill ride that left me breathless. The ending has a double shocker. I don't think I breathed once while reading the last twenty pages. If not for the overabundance of religious fanaticism, racial slurs and tortuous violence, I'd strongly recommend it to all my friends. As it is, I can only highly recommend it to my fellow mystery readers who enjoy hard-boiled, violent, bloody crime noir. I would love the opportunity to read all the previous novels in Wimberley's excellent series. I will definitely be standing in line for the sequel.
Other fast-paced, bloody crime noir with exotic locales, which I highly recommend are: Jan Weiss's These Dark Things (set in Naples, Italy), Wessel Ebersohn's The October Killings (set in Johannesburg, South Africa) and Ian Vasquez's Mr. Hooligan (set in Belize).