To preface this post, I need to share bit about a couple of my favorite authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.
In 1995, Preston and Child released Relic, a delicious thriller built on archaeology, legend, and science. They followed this bestseller with Reliquary and 8 other sequels, tied together with the same threads: a fantastic cast of characters, scientific/archeological realities, and various legends of strange phenomena/creatures.
It appears, to my excitement, that I’ve found a YA equivalent to my Preston/Child obsession.
The Hand of the Devil by Dean Vincent Carter
Bodley Head Children’s Books; First Edition edition (February 2, 2006)
(Isn’t this a deliciously wicked-looking cover?)
Courtesy of Amazon.com:
From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—As a journalist for the weird science magazine Missing Link, recent college graduate Ashley Reeves has dealt with his fair share of crackpots and phony tips, but the letter from Reginald Mather seems genuine. Mather claims to have in his possession the only known specimen of a particularly large and deadly variety of mosquito known as the Ganges Red, a legendary creature believed by some to have supernatural abilities. Ashley quickly departs for Mather’s isolated cabin on Aries Island where, of course, he is promptly cut off from civilization and finds himself in the company of a very unpleasant insect and at least one madman. (A portion of this review deleted due to spoilers.) Carter’s novel contains a fair helping of gore, but never generates much tension or atmosphere. Although large portions of the novel are devoted to people explaining various back stories to one another, none of the characters (with the possible exception of Mather) really emerges as an individual. Suspense and horror fans will probably find Lois Duncan and Darren Shan more satisfying.—Christi Voth, Parker Library, CO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When young magazine journalist Ashley Reeves receives an intriguing letter, he leaves his London office in the hope of reporting on an unusual species of insect – the Ganges Red. That evening he arrives on Aries Island and encounters the writer of the letter – Reginald Mather. At first Mather seems no more than an eccentric collector, happy to live in isolation on the island. But when Reeves unearths the horrific truth he finds himself thrown headlong into a macabre nightmare that quickly spirals out of control. His life is in danger …and Mather is not his only enemy …Both gruesome and compelling, chilling and page-turning, this much-anticipated thriller from Dean Vincent Carter will delight older readers.
Ok, so I’m not in full agreement with School Library Journal. I really thought this was a refreshing departure from typical teen thrillers. It felt more like a YA Stephen King novel. It’s definitely not for younger readers; I wouldn’t recommend it below 9th grade, unless the reader was particularly precocious.
It’s definitely a little more raw in content than say, Christopher Pike. I didn’t find this to be a pale book by any stretch of the imagination; I tore through it in less than a day (and I usually don’t sit and read for HOURS at a time unless the book is REALLY fantastic). So…
Strengths: As I’ve said, a definite change of pace from some of the tamer, more diluted teen thrillers out there. Its similarity to Preston/Child books (if you read this and like it, I strongly suggest finding a copy of Relic) was more than enough to pull me in. Mathers is wonderfully creepy as the villain. The ending of the book does, IMO, build up quite a bit of tension through a series of confrontations that pile up on each other.
Potential Flaws: I did find one element to be lacking: the addition of Reeves’ love interest. She appears too late in the novel and without enough build-up to make Reeves’ feelings for her believable. It’s a rather afterthought-ish way to add the romance in, which ends up being critical to the climax. Definitely needed refining in that area.
Carter’s book is fast-paced, gruesome, and intense. Thoroughly enjoyable and uniquely plotted. Good for reading late at night. 🙂