Title: The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction, Supernatural Elements
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man’s untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.
It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since–Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.
Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.
Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.
“Coffey has a profound sense of Southern spirituality. His narrative moves the reader from . . . [a] false heaven to a terrible hell, then back again to a glorious grace.” –“Publishers Weekly”
Twenty years ago, Philip McBride died in Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide but was it just a tragic accident? Or was his death something far more sinister? In Billy Coffey’s The Devil Walks in Mattingly, only one person knows the truth about what happened that day, but three people are tortured by their actions that may have led to Phillip’s death.
Neither the past nor secrets truly remain hidden and no one is more aware of that than the sheriff of Mattingly, Jake Barnett. He is slowly being crushed by the weight of the events from twenty years ago as night after night in his dreams, he relives that day over and over. His wife Kate desperately tries to make amends for her role through good works, but she can never fully escape from her guilt. Taylor Hathcock’s grip on reality is forever altered and he sets in motion a devastating chain of events in the present that will eventually make all three of them face what happened on that long ago day.
The Devil Walks in Mattingly is told from each of the key players points of view. Matt’s character speaks in first person and his exhaustion, shame and despair are keenly felt throughout the novel. Kate’s character always feels a little distant and removed since there is little context for her overwhelming need for penance. Taylor is the most confusing character because it is obvious that he is mentally unstable and there appears to be no rational reason for what he is seeking.
The most compelling of all the characters is not a person, but a place. Commonly referred to as the holler by the locals, Happy Hollow is a place to be avoided but reaching the gate to the holler is a rite of passage for most of the men in Mattingly. The holler is alive with what feels like an evil presence and few dare to venture into the malevolent forest. But it is always clear the holler is key to the unfolding story: Philip died within the holler, Taylor now makes his home in the holler and Jake steers clear of the holler at all costs. But the holler is where supernatural forces will provide salvation and quite possibly redemption, for Taylor, Jake and Kate.
The Devil Walks in Mattingly is not an action packed novel that moves at breakneck speed. It is a slow moving story that builds little by little to a rather impressive and dramatic conclusion that offers almost all of the answers that the readers and the characters have been searching for. But there is one intriguing secret of the holler that remains hidden but since Mattingly is also the setting of Billy Coffey’s previous novels, I can only hope he plans to eventually reveal the truth in a future release.