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The Devil You Know: A Novel Hardcover – March 16, 2004

3.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Johnson's slow-to-start but ultimately satisfying literary thriller set in the early 1970s, 15-year-old David Geist is a sensitive high school student and cross-country runner whose mental landscape is colored by a simultaneous resentment and love for his recovering alcoholic father, Max, recently returned to the family after years of estrangement. David ventures with Max and his younger sister, Janie, on a trip to the northern Minnesota Boundary Waters area on what he hopes will be a healing vacation with his father. But a gang of redneck thugs from the local meatpacking plant has taken to the lakes at the same time in order to assassinate their supervisor, who is threatening to interfere with their black market beef-stealing operation. After the murder—and still in a killing rage—Penry, the gang's leader, hunts down and attacks Max, who had verbally insulted him earlier, and rapes Janie. David arrives in time to kill one of Penry's accomplices with the hunting knife Max has given him as a present, but Penry escapes. In the end, with the help of a mysterious local outlaw, David confronts Penry in a dramatic and tragic showdown. Johnson (Don't Think Twice) lays the coming-of-age nostalgia on thick and sweet at first and may lose some readers early on as a result. But after several chapters of overly wistful, throat-clearing prose, he delivers a riveting, character-driven tale of action and loss set in a beautiful and remote corner of wild America that's sure to please a wide range of readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This tense and realistic psychological thriller gets off to a deliberate start as readers become acquainted with 15-year-old David's familial, social, and psychological dynamics. Bright and athletic, the teen lives a grimly solitary life at school, where he isn't afraid to stand up to a senior bully. At home, he is miffed by his mother's apparent weakness for her former husband and protective of his younger sister, Janie, who was adopted only a few years earlier. The pace picks up quickly when their father takes the children on a camping trip in northern Minnesota. Cocky and socially ill at ease, he isn't as clear as David about the natural hazards for which they must plan–but, much more dangerously, he unwittingly involves them with a psychopath and his own entourage of drunken companions. Disaster is visited on the family with such harshness that readers may wince, but the narrative arc will keep them turning the pages, along with a ray of hope that David can save them all in the end. Set in the late 1960s, the story has a few cases of anachronistic slang, but, overall, character and plot development are polished and exquisite, even when the characters are vile. David's relationship with Janie is sweet but not saccharine. Her rape and his requisite act of retaliation are realistic. This is a strong story, in every sense, with a compelling and believable resolution that unfolds as fully and deliberately as the setup.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books; 1 edition (March 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609609645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609644
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,727,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book, The Devil You Know, and while the story, in and of itself, was interesting, I had a very hard time getting around the exceedingly long, sometimes exasperatingly so, sentences that could, on their own, constitute a paragraph, even one of ample length, requiring multiple readings of the same information, in an attempt to glean the author's intent, all the while meandering through disjointed, and disconnected, thoughts that, with a little effort, could have been assembled in a much more user-friendly, easy to read, and understand, manner through the use of punctuation such as the seldom used, in this case, period that can be a great tool when used properly, such as for defining a thought and, giving the material some structure and definition which the overuse of the comma, in one sentence I counted 65 commas, destroys, as it breaks up a sentence, as used in this book, into disconnected thoughts, that can make it more difficult for the reader to comprehend, and causing the reading of said book to be a labor, like pulling weeds, instead of a relaxing, and enjoyable, experience, as reading a book should be, without so much effort to assemble the author's thoughts, into something meaningful which, excessive application of the comma, some seem to be sprinkled on the page as if from a salt shaker, prevents.

I know I could have put the book down at any time, and only blame myself for reading it through to the end. But, I did enjoy the story. As I'm sure you've determined, the above sentence is my smart-alecky attempt at his writing style. It's just so halting when there are so many commas in one sentence that are dividing the sentence into different thoughts. In other cases the comma seems to show up uninvited for no apparent reason. Many of the commas could be removed altogether and leave completely proper sentence structure in their absence. I honestly can't believe the editor let this book go to print like this.
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Format: Hardcover
I normally do not read best-sellers or "page-turners," but when I saw that the author was a teacher at the Iowa Workshop and that it was set in the Boundary Waters wilderness in the seventies (I went on two life changing trips in this area as a teen from Chicago in the seventies) I was excited about reading this book. I enjoyed the book a great deal and stayed up later than normal each night reading it.

I thought it was curious that the author is a writing teacher yet a lot of the story telling was, well, less succinct than a writing teacher would let a writing student get away with. Also, the writer, when he really gets in his element, has a peculiar way of using a lot of commas, which for me is distracting and decelerating - but I think this is his personal style and ultimately it works.

Whenever I read a book like this my impression is that the writer isn't writing a book but is writing something they hope will be made into a movie. I don't know if this one will be filmed - I hope it will.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a really good book, the plots and ideas really keep you moving along, though near the end you feel like it should be over (still worth it to finish until the end). Only real problem I had with it is that it was a little difficult to read, what I mean is the way it was written was hard to follow along with at times.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a very fast read. Thoughtful, well written, paints an ethereal landscape using words the way JMWTurner uses oil. Thoroughly enjoyable. Read it over a weekend.
As it read it, it occurred to me the author had fun writing this book-however morose and heartbreaking some of the content.
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