Score: 88/100 (8.8 out of 10)
The Nocturnal Devil is a gripping murder mystery/detective novel by Miguel Angel Hernandez Jr. Uniquely, it includes pseudo-paranormal/horror elements along with a chilling psychological exploration of a homicidal mind.
The Nocturnal Devil follows NYPD police detective Griffin Knight as he and his friends attempt to uncover the mystery behind two missing women in New York City, Melanie Chips and Britney Birdwhistle.
The two women are horribly and viciously murdered by a deranged psychopath obsessed with a vampiric fantasy and the belief that this ritualistic killing (in his mind) will allow him to ascend to godhood. It becomes even tenser when investigators realize that the killer may not be working alone, but with an accomplice whose chilling normalcy may allow him to entice victims.
The race is on to find and capture these killers before they can find a new victim.
This desperate race against time necessitates the calling of Detective Knight out from leave.
Griffin Knight and his ragtag team of investigators are the perfect people to find and stop this bizarre serial-killer, having just taken down the formidable Colossus in Seattle. They have long been chasing a shadowy, dangerous, and deadly entity named Sapphire Rushland—the Psychopath in Seattle—the person responsible for the death of Knight's partner, Felix Del Camp, and who repeatedly sends assassins to target the detective.
Sapphire Rushland casts an ominous shadow over the characters and the book as a whole, even when it is dominated by this terrifying vampiric killer.
Griffin Knight is a serviceable lead protagonist who really grew on us in one of the sequels, The Windy City Terror (book 4 in the series). This is the third book in the series, and we meet a very vulnerable, injured, discouraged, and disheartened Griffin Knight after the events in Seattle. The death of Felix, in particular, haunts him. He is anxious about future attacks from Sapphire Rushland. He is riddled with injuries, and technically on leave from the force. However, desperate circumstances involving this vampiric killer and these missing women prompt his return.
In this book, Griffin is going through the Dark Knight Rises arc of rediscovering himself after getting the crap kicked out of him by life. Helping him in that recovery is the new deuteragonist and love interest, Samira Bellucci, a doctor for the police department who tends to him and helps him to recover.
It is clear that Griffin falls head over heels in love with Samira, and their attraction seems understandable. Samira may be a candidate for “Hottest Character” in our special awards. She is a soft-featured, curvy, blonde-haired Albanian woman with a calming, nurturing personality.
In fact, what happens to Samira really leads to the tensest and most inspired part of the entire book as Griffin must ensure that what happened to the other women doesn't happen to the woman he loves.
Now, there were a few things about this book that seemed strange and may have not worked as intended. We get really close and intimate with the killer, even getting his perspective while he brutally murders these women. It almost feels as if the author was trying to get us to understand the villain's twisted point of view, but instead it just comes across as uncomfortable and awkward. The gruesome violence felt almost glamorized, and the murderer's actions and motivations seemed almost celebrated like the acts of some charismatic slasher villain (i.e. Freddy, Jason, or Michael). We know that probably wasn't the author's intention, but that's how it came across. We should really feel terrible and sorry for these victims, not entertained and captivated by their brutal demise.
Perhaps these sections should have been from third-person rather than from first-person?
It also takes away a lot of the mystery of the story since we already know what happened to the women, pretty much who killed them, and what's going on with the case (even when the main protagonists don't). This is strange since you'd expect (in a murder mystery/detective novel) for the detective to be the one making the discoveries that reveal all of this information rather than the narrative itself just telling us.
There's also a goofiness and hilarity to this Sapphire character sending a baddie of the day like she's Rita Repulsa or something. It would probably have helped to have read the previous books to get an idea of what Sapphire's deal is, but she does seem to be the over-arching villain of the series.
There are times in this book (and in book four, which we also read) that we felt it jumped the shark. What do we mean by that? Well, there's a suspension of disbelief that you expect to have with any work of fiction. However, a reader can only suspend their disbelief so much before they start seeing the cracks form or the man behind the curtain.
This book opens up by seeming very grounded in reality, then becomes more like Supernatural or Buffy than CSI or Criminal Minds. It becomes more like an urban fantasy than a crime novel. In book four, this suspension of disbelief goes to the extreme and becomes full-on sci-fi/mad science/urban legend.
There are some sci-fi elements to be seen here such as Ashe's hacking abilities and the Smart-Goggles.
The missing of genres can both be a benefit or a detriment to a work of fiction like this. It depends on the person. If you're signing up for a more realistic, grounded murder mystery, then this isn't it. If you're signing up for a bizarre, over-the-top murder mystery with fantasy and sci-fi elements, then this might be up your alley.
It's no surprise that the author is an admitted fan of Phoenix Wright: Ace Detective. A lot of the cases in his stories, like in Phoenix Wright, throw plausibility out the windows and, instead, ask: How can we make this case as extreme, hokey, over-the-top, ridiculous, and absurd as possible? In Phoenix Wright, you have people employing animals like snakes to kill their victims, using psychic powers and spiritual mediums to get an edge, or going through long, winding, convoluted, intricate crime plots just to achieve a simple goal. Logic is secondary to the entertainment/enjoyment factor. You definitely see the inspiration here.
If you enjoy murder mysteries that are more out there, check this out on Amazon!