Kate’s Review: “The Devil Takes You Home”

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Book: “The Devil Takes You Home” by Gabino Iglesias

Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, August 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley and an ARC from the publisher at ALA.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: From Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Locus award-nominated author, Gabino Iglesias, comes a genre-defying thriller about a father desperate to salvage what’s left of his family, even if it means a descent into violence–both supernatural and of our own terrifying world.

Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

The Devil Takes You Home is a panoramic odyssey for fans of S.A. Cosby’s southern noir, Blacktop Wasteland, by way of the boundary-defying storytelling of Stephen Graham Jones and Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Review: Thank you to NetGalley and to Mulholland Books for giving me an eARC and an ARC of this novel!

I had been hearing about “The Devil Takes You Home” by Gabino Iglesias for a number of months, either on social media or on buzzy book lists. It was one that was definitely on my list, given that I enjoyed Iglesias’s previous book “Coyote Songs”, so when I had the opportunity to read it via NetGalley AND through an ARC I got at ALA, I was eager, but nervous to start. I knew that Iglesias wasn’t going to pull punches, and the description alone tipped me off that this was probably going to be supremely creepy, and also very sad. And reader, I was right. Iglesias just kicked me in my feelings AND set me on the edge of my seat in this part horror story, part cartel thriller, part indictment of American society and the tragedies it creates through its apathy.

The supernatural horrors that Iglesias describes and explores were super, super unsettling, using an air of mystery and ambiguity to fuel them. Just as Mario doesn’t know what he is seeing in the tunnels or out in the desert, we too don’t know, outside of glimpses and short descriptions of things that just don’t sound right. A potential psychic gift that is growing louder. Creatures that sound perhaps humanoid-ish, but which are feral and grotesque. Witchcraft and rituals harkening to the Narcosatánicos conjures up seemingly impossible acts, with the dead coming to life for a fleeting moment to descend upon enemies. Rituals end with otherworldly goo that is then used as a blessing of sorts. A story of a man whose barn was inhabited by a strange being. All of these moments were fleeting, and we didn’t linger to understand or to get an explanation, and honestly that made it all the scarier.

But then it was the real life horrors that REALLY got under my skin. Iglesias doesn’t put too much focus on the magical or otherworldly terrors, but he lasers in on the very real terrors of cartel violence, systemic racism, torture, and childhood illness and brings out so much dread and devastation. I found myself having to put the book down after a particularly devastating moment, but it always feels like there is a purpose and meaning behind the most devastating beats. Iglesias also knows how to capture the rage and trauma and grief that Mario is feeling after his family is ripped asunder by his daughter Anita’s illness, and how a child dying of leukemia is the greatest horror of this book should you be a parent of a young kid (and hello, that is me, so you know I was just reeling in despair). Iglesias doesn’t hold back on the realism that comes with the violence and the violent world that Mario inhabits, and you find yourself horrified by some of the things he does, but you also completely understand it as he is grief stricken AND up to his ears in medical debt. The clear line of society causing so many ills due to capitalism, racism, and class warfare cuts through the pages of this novel, and the desperation of some of our characters drives them into this dark journey in which we are passengers. It mixes horror and thriller and spits out something wholly unique. As I was reading it it felt almost dreamlike, which I imagine is the point, as Mario certainly doesn’t know what is reality and what is in his head as the journey goes on.

“The Devil Takes You Home” is scary and tragic, a cartel thriller and a ghoul-ridden horror tale at once, and it left me breathless by the end. Steel yourself for this one, both in the vivid moments of violence, but also the tragedy of a parent at the end of their rope.

Rating 9: Dark and genre bending, “The Devil Takes You Home” is incredibly tense, unwaveringly scary, and is both bleak and dreamlike.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Devil Takes You Home” would fit in on the Goodreads list “Diverse Horror”.

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