"The Jersey Devil" Book Review
Written by Shane D. Keene
Published by Pinnacle Books
Written by Hunter Shea
2016, 352 pages, Fiction
Released on July 26th, 2016
Hunter Shea is an author who's been around the block a few times. With more than twelve novels and novellas to his name, he's as productive as the most prolific writers in genre fiction and it can be said with confidence that his books could all come with a Guaranteed Great Read seal on their covers. That's a statement especially true of his monster stories. Hunter is the undisputed king of cryptids and his reign is likely to remain unchallenged for a long time to come, as every successive creature feature he produces serves to further cement his dominance in the field. With The Jersey Devil, the latest entry in Shea's lexicon of savagery, he's once again outdone himself with a bloody, brutal thrill ride through the Jersey Pine Barrens.
When it comes to gore fests, Hunter Shea can stand shoulder to shoulder with the bloodiest authors in the business, and he can paint a breathtaking action scene like nobody else can. He's a master of pacing and setting who never loses sight of the plot on his way to delivering a knockout punch finale, but the most important thing about his work is that he never skimps on the people. In The Jersey Devil, we're introduced to a diverse and delightfully human cast of characters, fully formed and all with backstories that make them believable and sympathetic. Sam "Boompa" Willet and family are the most loveable group of survivalist rednecks you're likely to encounter, and their connection to the Jersey Devil gives the tale a good dose of mystery and intrigue. In addition, the Pine Barrens itself takes on a sort of personality, becoming as much of a cast member as anyone else, simultaneously fascinating and horrific.
In 1909 there was a rash of Jersey Devil encounters in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. People reported seeing, hearing, and smelling the creature, and it was blamed for disappearances of livestock and even children. Since then it's been largely absent, with sporadic sightings but nowhere near the amount of activity as during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In The Jersey Devil, it's the present day and the monster is back in force. New sightings are being revealed, people are going missing, and there are a series of savage and unexplained deaths. Enter the Willet clan. Along with Norm, Sam's cryptozoologist friend, the family is on the hunt, armed to the teeth and out to destroy their nemesis once and for all.
In addition to his love of monsters, Hunter Shea is a connoisseur of violence and body count, and the way that people get dead in The Jersey Devil is a celebration of gore and splatter reminiscent of the old John Skipp/Craig Spector books or the works of the great Jack Ketchum. He's not afraid to kill his-and possibly your-darlings, so it's a pretty safe bet that he's going to break your heart before the book is through. But he'll do so in such an entertaining fashion that you'll hardly notice him crushing your soul until it is well and truly smashed. Shea spells fun with crimson paint and all capital letters, and he never fails to deliver it, creating a lightning fast reading experience that will leave you with a silly grin plastered to your face when all is said and done.
Hunter Shea's monster novels read like a Saturday matinee on a lazy summer afternoon and, with The Jersey Devil, he's taken his work to new levels of violence and mayhem. It's a book that revels in blood, destruction, and pulpy goodness, and it's a shining example of what paperback horror should be, with redshirts aplenty, non-stop action, and even an explosion or two thrown in for good measure. When you read this book, bring a big, overflowing bucket of popcorn and a huge block of reading time, as it is damn near impossible to put it down once it shifts into high gear, which it does with the very first paragraph.