Don’t Let The Devil Ride by Ace Atkins

3 Mins read
Don't Let the Devil Ride by Ace Atkins front cover

As a music lover, it’s tempting to say that Addison McKellar deserves everything that’s coming to her for attending a Hootie and the Blowfish concert. Still, I must remember I’m here to review books and not their character’s music choices, no matter how dubious.

Addison is approaching 40, and has a mid-life crisis heading for her quicker and with more force than she can reasonably expect. There are things she does know and things she doesn’t and, as ever, it’s the things she doesn’t know that lead to the most trouble. Addison knows she drinks too much. Cocktails and gin help her get through the day since her ice cream shop went under. She knows her kids are essentially fine, especially little Preston, and if her daughter Sara Caroline can be a little judgemental, that’s just a teenage phase. Addison knows that her family are well-provided for thanks to her husband Dean, of Dean McKellar Construction. She also knows that Dean is missing, that this has happened before, and maybe it’s time to accept that Dean is having an affair.

That’s certainly what the Memphis PD tell her when she reports him missing. But then her credit cards start getting declined. Dean’s secretary, Amanda, a woman she thinks she knows almost as well as her friends, the amount of times they’ve spoken over the phone, is evasive as to his whereabouts. A visit to the building where his office is based is even more concerning. Nobody there has heard of either Dean or Amanda and there appears to be no record of McKellar construction.

Addison is hit with the revelation: how well does she really know her husband? Thinking back, he’s always kept her at arm’s length; from his business, from his close friends.

Porter Hayes is something of a legend in Memphis law enforcement. He might be pushing 70 but he’s a sly old fox whose clothes are as sharp as his wit. He agrees to take on Addison’s case as a favour to her father. Hayes is quickly able to identify Amanda – actually a random lady Dean has been paying to handle Addison – but who herself knows very little about his business. At this point, about the only thing that rings true about Dean is his army background.

Meanwhile, author Ace Atkins adds more characters to his story and slowly the connections between them will be revealed. There is Joanna Grayson, a film starlet of the 1960s whose career never really quite caught fire. These days she’s best known for her role alongside Elvis in Easy Come, Easy Go, and it’s this shared history with the King which she trades for a precarious living on the nostalgia circuit. Alongside her is her long-suffering daughter, Tippi. There’s a fondness between them, but also a hint of resentment. Joanna would have liked her daughter to be a little less ordinary and Tippi would like to live her own life out of her mother’s shadow.

Gaultier arrives next, a late middle-aged French arms dealer who travels the world brokering deals, more or less avoiding getting his hands dirty. When we first meet him, he’s being threatened by Jack Dumas, a one-armed mercenary searching for a cache of weapons he suspects he’s been cheated out of. Dumas had arranged the deal with Gaultier’s acquaintance, Peter Collinson.

No sooner has Gaultier got Dumas off his back by admitting Collinson might be in Memphis than he is abducted by a Russian arms dealer called Anatoliy Zub. At this point in the story it starts to become clear that Dean has more than one identity, and more than one life. Seeing how this plays out, as people from three different worlds collide, is part of the fun of the novel.

For the most part, Atkins keeps the tone light and frothy which suits a story where there’s plenty of comedy, and a little sex too. The globe-trotting plot, and eccentric character list makes it a feel-good holiday read. When the story demands it, principally when Dean turns up, Atkins isn’t scared of making it a little darker. What violence there is isn’t slapstick, and all the more effective for it.

Don’t Let The Devil Ride is more than this though, and for all the laughs, and all the deceit, the novel reveals its heart at the end – an uplifting story, very well written, about two women overcoming adversity and their toxic relationships, to become their true selves.

We have featured Ace Atkins before, and you can look at our reviews of The Forsaken, The Ranger and Lullaby.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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