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Devil in the Hole Hardcover – July 17, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"Devil in the Hole is powerful stuff. Drawing on real events, Salzberg has crafted a mesmerizing tale in many voices. He masterfully drip-feeds the compelling story, funneling moments from disparate, scattered lives to define the personality of a madman. The overall effect is like slowly opening a beautifully wrapped box of poisoned chocolates."
--Tim McLoughlin, editor Brooklyn Noir.

"Salzberg masterfully weaves together dozens of voices, including the killer's, in an effort to find out why a man would murder his entire family and then disappear. Devil in the Hole is a haunting meditation on the thin, wavering line between sense and senselessness."
--Kaylie Jones, author Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir, and Speak Now

 "The devil isn't in the details, but in a tony Connecticut town. Charles Salzberg's Devil in the Hole is a fine piece of crime writing and a hell of a fun read."
--Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of Gun Church

In this smartly constructed crime novel, Salzberg uses multiple viewpoints to portray an unlikely killer who methodically slaughters his family . . . an intriguing collage of impressions and personal perspectives for the reader to ponder.
--Publishers Weekly Reviews, 5-17-2013

From the Author

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader
James Kirkland notices that all of the lights are on in his neighbor's house. Not trying to be the nosy neighbor, but still curious, he checks every night and notices that lights are going out over time. As he watches the house he never sees any activity within even though the Hartman's have three children and John's mother lives with them. Kirkland finally decides to call the police and what they find is beyond horrifying. The wife and the three teenaged children have all been killed in the same way, a single bullet in the forehead.  Then the killer neatly positioned them in the ballroom. Upstairs, Hartman's mother is lying in her bed killed in the same manner as the rest of the family. All the shell casings were picked up, the weapons were cleaned and oiled and the house was made presentable before the killer fled. John Hartman, the husband, is missing and based on the coroner's estimate, he has a three-week lead on the police. The hunt for Hartman becomes an unwieldy obsession for Charles Floyd, the senior police investigator assigned to the case. John Hartman is a complex individual who commits a heinous crime to shed is oppressive old life as he seeks to find a new life while eluding the police.
Devil in the Hole is a mesmerizing, elegantly constructed crime novel that is based on a true story. Charles Salzberg tells the tale using numerous characters that knew Hartman or encountered him as he moves around to avoid being caught. The voices of Charles Floyd and Hartman himself are raw and compelling as each of them deal with their own inner demons. Each of the other characters provide a teasing snippet of information about Hartman that keeps the reader enthralled as the story unfolds. Even though Salzberg uses over a dozen voices to tell the story, the reader never gets lost despite the complexity of the book. I am typically not a fan of books written in this manner but Salzberg masterfully uses this technique to create a novel that is different in an extremely good way. The author effortlessly blends the different perspectives, viewpoints, and impressions of each character into a brilliant tapestry that envelops the reader, while peaking interest and the desire for more information about the crime. Devil in the Hole is one of the best books that I have read this year and I most highly recommend it.
5.0 Bolts

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (July 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1432826964
  • ISBN-13: 978-1432826963
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,640,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Salzberg is a novelist, a journalist, and an acclaimed writing instructor.

His new novel, Devil in the Hole, a gripping work of literary crime fiction based on the notorious John List murders, is on shelves now.

He is the author of the Henry Swann detective series: Swann Dives In; Swann's Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel; and the upcoming Swann's Lake of Despair.

His non-fiction books include: On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place: Baseball's 10 Worst Teams of the Century; From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, An Oral History of the NBA; and co-author of My Zany Life and Times, by Soupy Sales; Catch Them Being Good; and The Mad Fisherman.

He has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer's Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is a consulting editor at the webzine and co-host, with Jonathan Kravetz, of the reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB in New York City.

His freelance work has appeared in such publications as Esquire, New York Magazine, GQ, Elle, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, The New York Times Arts and Leisure section, The New York Times Book Review, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Josh Mauthe on August 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
On one level, Devil in the Hole is a fictionalized version of true events, a story about a man who killed his entire family and then disappeared. But it's really much more than that, and much of that comes from the book's unusual structure. Rather than being told in a traditional style, Salzberg creates a faux oral history of the crime, using a slew of narrators ranging from the neighbor who discovered the crime to an obsessive investigator to the murderer himself. What results from this, then, isn't a traditional murder mystery. There's never any doubt about who committed the crime; instead, Devil in the Hole is about why he killed his family, and what the impact of the crime was on those left behind. It's a very different sort of crime story, and Salzberg does a fantastic job of creating dozens of different voices and blending them into something more than the sum of their parts - something that still manages to to be a satisfying and gripping narrative while still being driven more by the emotional hooks than any traditional plot elements. For all of that, the book's ending doesn't really land well; there's very little sense of closure at all, and more just a sense that the book had to come to some sort of an end. On the other hand, part of the book's constant question is whether there possibly could be any sort of appropriate closure at all. What answers could there be that would actually satisfy? Even the murderer himself can only somewhat articulate why he did what he did; what answers could the rest of us hope for? And yet, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed in the ending, even as I understood part of its thematic point.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Skalka on August 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
News of a horrific crime prompts the question: how could someone do that? In the cleverly-crafted Devil in the Hole, Charles Salzberg considers both the crime and the criminal from a number of angles to get at the answer.

Although fiction, the book is based on an actual event that occurred in a comfortable, upper-class east coast community. Five members of a household, along with the family pet, are brutally slain and left in a 13-room mansion ablaze with lights. Missing is John Hartman, the husband, father and son of the victims. So well does the suspected killer plan his escape and cover his tracks, that the deaths go unnoticed for three weeks and by then, well, where is he?

In a series of first person accounts from Hartman and others who knew him or whose paths he crossed, Salzberg recreate events leading up to the killings and delves into the mind and heart - if one exists - of the killer, a man who tidied up the house after methodically drugging and shooting his victims. As if speaking into a tape recorder, coworkers, neighbors, girlfriend, a local minister and the relentless investigating officer as well as a number of unsuspecting people Hartman encounters in his flight, talk about the case. Sometimes they digress into their own lives as people are wont to do but they always return to Hartman. His foul trail extends far and wide and keeps under the radar for years, leaving the reader to wonder if and how he will ever be caught.

Salzberg's technique allows you to read as if sitting face-to-face with the interviewees as they relate their experiences with a killer and with the mild-mannered Hartman himself as he explains and tries to justify his loathsome deed. The result is both chilling and powerful and conveys a subtle cautionary message.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Folie on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a powerful story, expertly told. In Devil in the Hole, we know who the murderer is right from the start, and yet this book is just as tantalizing and engrossing as any of the best "whodunnits" I have ever read. The story is told from multiple perspectives, including that of the murderer. The result is a compelling, kaleidoscopic roller-coaster ride of a read that kept me up turning the pages well into the night. I could not put it down. Based, as I understand it, on a real, horrific crime that took place on Long Island, the story covers the aftermath of a coldly planned and executed murder of the killer's entire family (including the family dog!). Besides being a ripping good yarn with lots of twists and turns, what I found particularly interesting was how Salzberg details the long-range effects of this unspeakable act, as they ripple out in time and space from the event itself. Characters who are only peripheral to the murderer nevertheless feel the power of his disruption on their lives as they are both repelled and titillated by his crime. The ending includes a unique but satisfying twist; justice is served in an unexpected, but completely satisfying way. A great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Cooper on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I savored "Devil in the Hole," and I was deeply involved in each of the numerous characters. I am astounded by Charles Salzberg's ability to create so many utterly individualized and authentic characters -- for his ability to juggle so many different sensibilities. Hartman's personality and mental fragility really makes me uncomfortable.
How Charles Salzberg created his mind boggles mine.
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