Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: 'The Devil's Due' by L.D. Beyer

Michigan author L.D. Beyer calls himself a ‘reformed corporate drone’ who now has turned to his first love, writing. This is his third novel and unlike his initial books (the Matthew Richter Thriller Series), THE DEVILS DUE an historical thriller set in Ireland during the 1920’s.

Too few authors offer the reader a bit of back story history for novels, but Beyer sets that right with his Preface: ‘In 1919, after seven hundred years of British oppression, a slumbering rage awakened as the Irish people rose up to claim their freedom and their land. Poorly trained, vastly outnumbered and severely short on guns and ammunition, a relatively small force nonetheless brought the battle to British forces in Dublin, Limerick and Cork, and on the lonely roads and fields in between. As the fighting raged, Frank Kelleher and Kathleen Coffey— a young couple from County Limerick with plans for the future— were torn apart. This is Frank’s tale: his fall from grace, his dreams, and his quest for redemption.’

He then offers a unique first paragraph that continues to set the stage for the action to follow: ‘County Limerick, Ireland December 1920 - It was such an odd thought for a man about to die, but, still, it filled my head. Will I hear the gun? Will I feel the bullet? I stared at the floor of the barn, the dirt soaked with my own blood. The earth was cold against my cheek, and I could hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. God pi**in’ on us again. Only in Ireland. The light of the oil lamps danced a waltz across the wall and, in the flickering light, I saw a pair of boots, then trousers. Nothing more, but I knew it was Billy. One of my eyes was already swollen shut, and I couldn’t lift my head from the dirt to see the rest of him. I didn’t have to; those were Billy’s boots.’

Beyer’s own summary of the book works well: ‘Guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, IRA soldier Frank Kelleher flees through the streets of war-torn Ireland with both the British and the Irish Republican Army trying to put a bullet in his head. He makes his way to America under an assumed name and with a forged passport, as the war in Ireland rages on. Settling in a new land, he finds he can’t let go of his past. Haunted by the fiancée he was forced to leave behind, by the deaths of three friends at his own hand, and by the country he was forced to abandon, Frank struggles to make his way in 1920s New York. As much as he can’t let go of Ireland, he finds that Ireland can’t let go of him—and his past has a way of finding him, thousands of miles and an ocean away. He dreams of going home, but knows that it could get him killed. Then an anonymous letter brings news about his fiancée Kathleen and he realizes that he no longer has a choice. A cease-fire is declared and Frank sails home with dreams of finding Kathleen, putting his past behind him, and starting a new life. When he arrives, he learns that the Ireland he was hoping to find—a united people finally free—was only a dream. With British soldiers withdrawing, long-standing feuds resurface, and Ireland is pushed to the brink of civil war. As tensions mount, he also learns that his sins will not be easily forgiven, and that he and Kathleen will never be safe until he clears his name. If the looming war doesn’t kill him, trying to right the wrongs of his past just might.’

Beyer uses just the right touch of Irish names and a sense of the Irish atmosphere to make us feel a sense of credibility in the Irish history portions. His dialogue is crisp without forcing the brogue and his ability to end chapters with a final sentence that links us securely to the next chapter is a true gift. This is a solid novel by a writer who obviously has ample talent to push him to the top of the heap of contemporary thriller/historic fiction writers. It will be interesting to learn the subject of his next novel – likely another sense of discovery. Grady Harp, June 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.