Don’t Let the Devil Ride
July 2, 2024
Book Review

Don’t Let The Devil Ride

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Jump on board for a twisty roller coaster ride of a gritty, dark, but frequently humorous narrative of international intrigue and deceit. Ace Atkins, well known for his Southern noir, turns his genius to a standalone tale of tangled motivations and multiple identities, populated by a cast of unique and colorful characters. Addison McKeller is suddenly confronted with the realization that her husband, Dean, is gone. He has been absent for several weeks without a word, and her credit cards are now being rejected.

Perhaps too frequent a drinker, she had no reason to explain why her husband would abandon her and their two children. She is stonewalled when confronting their friends and colleagues and rebuffed after contacting the Memphis Police Department. To make matters worse, she goes to his office, only to find out there was never a McKeller Construction company at this site, nor is there the frequently mentioned secretary, Amanda. At her wits’ end, she turns to her father’s longtime friend, Porter Hayes. Referred to locally as the “Black Sherlock Holmes,” he accepts her case based on his friendship with her ill and dying father, Sam Hassan. Porter is a dapper, wily old sly fox of a private eye, somewhat of a legend with Memphis law enforcement.

He quickly and resourcefully uncovers the falsehood of not only Dean’s secretary but also the deceit in his identity and the nature of his income. His name comes from a dead Persian Gulf War veteran, instantly killed in an auto crash. Dean actually appears to be a rogue military contractor dealing in illegal arms and contracting for hordes of mercenaries. This globetrotting adventure initiates after he has run afoul of multiple dangerous people, who think nothing of killing to achieve their objectives.

Atkins weaves a cast of multiple charismatic and colorful characters into this complex and twisted narrative. The puzzle involves washed-up actress Joanna Grayson, who played a bit part in a movie with Elvis Presley. She has used this minor role to glom onto Elvis’s popularity and eke out monetary benefits from the fans of the “King.” She has even gone as far as penning a book: One Night With You: The Joanna Grayson Story, which she brings along and signs at obscure venues. But her real money-making venture involves acting as a “go-between” to facilitate transactions of dubious legality. Her main customer is billionaire Leslie Grimes, who owns, as a front, a chain of Christian gift shops. She facilitates the overseas shipment of stolen objets d’art for him, utilizing notoriously dangerous and crooked sources. The transactions involve the “one-armed” Jack Dumas, a noted violent arms dealer who feels he has been double-crossed. Not to be outdone, the French arms dealer Gaultier is implicated in the transaction by the Russian oligarch Anatoliy Zub, along with his cadre of bodyguards. Gaultier has multiple aliases and is wanted by Interpol; he says he works to support his wife, six children, and two mistresses.

Ace Atkins weaves together a cast of unique and colorful characters into a multi-layered, gritty, and dark narrative punctuated with his signature lyrical and authentic prose that rivals that of James Lee Burke. This intricate globetrotting adventure escalates to a harrowing and exhilarating denouement as the pieces slowly meld together. Atkins’s craft makes it a necessity to further explore his oeuvre.

Thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

Don’t Let the Devil Ride available at:

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