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Devil's Night (Kat Campbell Mysteries) by Todd Ritter
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250028532
Date: 20 August 2013 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Author Interview / Show Official Info /

On Halloween, a pyromaniac is setting fire to historical landmarks throughout Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania. Early in the morning, the museum is the first building to burn. After the smoke clears, the corpse of local historian Constance Bishop is found in the crawlspace. Stranger still, she is found lying on top of a trunk containing an ancient skeleton.

As Kat and her friends, Nick Donnelly and Henry Goll, search for the pyromaniac's identity, more fires erupt, killing more people. Soon they discover the fires may be the revenge of a witch who was burned to death by the townspeople over three-hundred-years ago.

Todd Ritter's explosive mystery, Devil's Night (following Death Notice and Bad Moon), is the most macabre, most horrifying novel in the Kat Campbell trilogy.

All the action of this fast-paced thriller occurs within the one day; and this day is one of my most loved holidays of the year, Halloween. All of my favorite holiday-themed slasher flicks of the seventies and eighties (e.g., Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, and Black Christmas) were fondly remembered as I read Devil's Night. In Perry Hollow, chaos reigns in the streets, vigilante rednecks are patrolling with shotguns, parties are canceled, and satanic symbols are found scrawled on buildings. People are dying! I love it!!

The icing on this already delicious cake is the horrible crime that the citizens of Perry Hollow perpetrated on an innocent woman many years ago. They killed her because she was different.

Speaking of different, Henry Goll, looking like Dr. Victor Frankenstein's horribly scarred creation, returns to Perry Hollow. A reporter living in Rome, Henry is writing an article on the wealthy Italian, Giuseppe Fanelli, who has just bought a prime piece of Perry Hollow real estate for unknown reasons. Also returning to town is the crippled PI, Nick Donnelly, of Philadelphia. He is following on the heels of his beautiful girlfriend, Lucy Meade, a forensic anthropologist who has been asked to study the skeleton found in the museum's crawlspace.

All three main characters, Kat, Henry, and Nick, are extremely scarred -- physically and psychologically. In fact, Devil's Night has the most scarred cast of characters I have ever encountered in a mystery. I can't help but feel sadness when I read about them. On Halloween, all three nearly lose their lives, not once, but a multiple of times.

Besides the horror and mystery, there is quite a bit of soap opera-like drama. Readers will be pleasantly surprised when they learn secrets about the characters' pasts, especially Henry. There were several times that I became teary eyed during the novel, usually when someone died or nearly died. I attribute this to the author's superb ability to create realistic, likable characters and accurately depict them in tense, perilous predicaments.

It is possible to read Devil's Night as a standalone; however, because there are numerous references to the Grim Reaper killings and Eric Olmstead's search for his missing brother, I would recommend reading the Kat Campbell novels in order, beginning with Death Notice.

According to the author, Todd Ritter, this macabre series of modern Gothic horror has ended with Devil's Night. I was very disappointed. Though I support his decision to move on to a new series, I will keep hoping that he will someday return to Perry Hollow. There are still some unresolved issues. For example, Nick Donnelly hasn't found the person responsible for murdering his older sister Sarah.

Nevertheless, Ritter's novels are highly recommended for fans of macabre mysteries, especially those with an occult element. Also, Devil's Night would be most enjoyed if read on or around Halloween.

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