|LOOK AT THAT COVER.|
Combine a run-down mansion by the sea, a family full of secrets, and a morally ambiguous love interest, and what do you get? A book that feels like it was designed specifically for me. And I'm probably not the only one who will feel that way about Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
I think possibly my favorite thing about this book is the setting, which is completely mind-boggling for me. I'm not a setting person; I'm a character person. I would rather have a vivid picture of the characters-- what they look like as well as who they are-- in my head than an image of the setting, which is why I'm amazed by Tucholke's ability to make me care about the setting here. It's as if Echo and Citizen Kane (the mansion, for those not privy to the lingo just yet) are characters in themselves. You can practically taste the salt in the air and the coffee wafting up from the guest house. You can hear the waves crashing on the rocks and the creaking of the Citizen's decaying floorboards. You can see the overcast skies and the iron gates and the town that does its best to ignore the existence of evil within its borders.
The rest follows naturally. The story is built on the foundation of Violet White's grandmother and her warnings about holding hands with the Devil. "You stop fearing the devil when you're holding his hand." Good luck forgetting that first line when River West comes to town and begins holding Violet's hand almost immediately. No, you'll never completely trust River. You'll wonder why every time Violet goes to confront him about something, she suddenly feels all warm and fuzzy toward him and can't quite think of why it is she thought she had to confront him. You'll think River is controlling and dangerous. But then he'll stand up for her against her sexist brother, or Violet will catch him looking at her with warmth and adoration in his eyes, and you'll stop trying to figure him out. River is a mystery. He's a devil you kind of want to be holding Violet's hand… and so does she.
Mixed in are some vivid secondary characters like Violet's neighbor, Sunshine, and a little boy named Jack and his Town Drunk of a father. They all, in addition to being unique and well-drawn, have stories of their own. Eventually there is one other character who was my personal favorite, but I won't spoil who it is-- I'll just say this character is an interesting and natural addition to the story, and he brings some of River's secrets to light.
I give Devil 4.5 stars because it doesn't quite live up to my 5-star expectations, but keep in mind that my 5-star expectations are very high. The characterizations were a little too on-the-surface for me sometimes, in that they didn't sneak up on me. I didn't find myself halfway through the book and realizing that somehow, without my knowing it, I became attached; my attachment to the characters was never a surprise, which is kind of a bummer for me. But, like I said before, I'm a character person. I have very specific needs.
All in all I can't wait for the next book (what?! I thought this was a standalone when I read it, and then I find out… but no matter. I'm not one of those people who is bothered by finding out a book is not a standalone but the first in a series), and for everyone else to read this gothicgothicGOTHIC cliffside horror mystery romance.