The Devil’s Kiss oscillates between Tom’s late-1990s perspective and that of seventeenth-century Israel Hands, a woodcarver-turned-pirate who commits his first murder at age twelve out of a drive for familial vengeance. Israel’s life and the Stonecroft Inn are intimately linked, and these shifting points of view—well marked by chapter headings—illuminate the mystery at the heart of the novel. Like Tom, readers will be unable to shake the eerie feeling that suffuses the inn, but through Geerer’s skillful intermingling of the two timelines they can better understand the connection between past and present. While some may be put off by the unstinting depiction of the bloodthirstiness of privateer life, most will find Israel’s story just as gripping as Tom’s—and surprised at how their histories link together.
The darkness of some details, including some graphic murder scenes, mean that this adventure is best-suited for young adult or older audiences. Geerer’s blend of history and intrigue alongside a truly likable protagonist ensure that fans of ghost stories, cozy mysteries, pirate fiction, and historical drama will find much to love here, including a richly rendered settings and plot twists that will keep readers guessing.
Takeaway: Pirates, puritans, and a modern mystery collide in this delightfully spooky debut.
Great for fans of: Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes, Taci Wilton’s Mrs. Morris series.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B-