The Devil Inside by D.L. Hicks

‘It’s the smell of incense that always takes me back.’

In the small Australian coastal town of Gull Bay, a young woman is found murdered.  Detective Charlotte Callaghan takes the call.  The young woman is holding a religious quote in her hand.  Detective Callaghan’s half-brother, Father Joseph Callaghan, is asked about the quote:

‘As for that piece of paper and the quote printed on it, it was stapled to the top of the newsletter that was handed out to my congregation two weekends ago.’

And then another young woman is found murdered, with another biblical quote.  Could the murderer be someone within Father Joseph’s congregation?

The novel shifts between present and past.  In addition to Charlotte and the murder investigation in the present, it also includes the experiences of a ten-year-old altar boy in 1987.

Charlotte herself has secrets she is trying to hide from both (most of) her work colleagues, her brother, and her boyfriend.  But there are worrying developments in the murder cases: could her brother be involved?

‘The worst day in Charlotte’s working life had arrived.’

While some aspects of this novel are predictable, that certainly did not stop me turning the pages as I was very keen to find out how it would end.  Who is killing young women, and why?  Who can Charlotte trust? 

Which takes me to the ending.  One aspect, while sad, was expected.  The other element, less expected, was unsettling.

D.L. Hicks is a serving police officer, and this is his first novel.  It touches on some painfully topical issues, introduces some memorable characters, and left me wondering.

I hope that Mr Hicks keeps writing.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith