Kirkus Reviews: “Ripped from the Headlines” of 1692, Devil Knows, by David Joseph Kolb, Reverberates in the American Psyche
Garn Press congratulates David Joseph Kolb on his outstanding Kirkus Review of Devil Knows. We agree with the reviewer for Kirkus that “Long after the book is closed, the reader will be pondering that time and place and how it still reverberates in the American psyche.”
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Hardcover: 27.95 | Paperback: $17.95 | eBook: $9.99
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-23-0 | Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-22-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-24-7
Kirkus Reviews: Devil Knows: A Tale of Murder and Madness in America’s First Century
Here is a novel “ripped from the headlines”…provided you found the headlines in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Yes, we’re talking about the infamous Salem Witch Trials. With a cameo role by Ray Bradbury’s ancestor, accused witch Mary Bradbury.
Veteran journalist Kolb anchors this historical fiction to the fate of Mary Bradbury, the only convicted witch to escape with her life (from a fetid Boston prison). The two main characters in this story are the Reverend Cotton Mather and the invented character, Hopestill Foster, brought to the new world as an indentured servant. Much of the book is in flashbacks, as in the first half of the book a fanatical Mather interrogates Hopestill, delirious in the grip of the “Small pocks.” The belief in witches is mind-boggling to the modern secular mind, but it was all too tragically real then and there. The Puritans have to answer not just for the witch hunt (a useful term they bequeathed to us!) but for their brutal treatment of all dissenters, including especially the Quakers. Other real people populate these pages, such as the outspoken and charismatic Anne Hutchinson (hounded out of the colony), the magisterial families of the Cottons and the Mathers, and the heroic Major Robert Pike and Mary’s husband, Thomas. And of course there are the Indian tribes with their shifting alliances and loyalties. This is very much the story of the hapless Hopestill, who is adrift between Indian and White society but who never loses his essential decency. Along the way there are “monstrous” births (Devil’s spawn), switched infants, purloined letters—all in a miasma of toxic righteousness. We have always felt ambivalent about our Puritan forebears, forebears who founded Harvard College while the wilderness still threatened them, and at the same time believed in witches and that God sanctioned their killing. Kolb tells the story well. The flashbacks are a particularly good narrative device and the prose matches the unrelenting drama. Helpful cast of characters, afterword, etc. provided.
Long after the book is closed, the reader will be pondering that time and place and how it still reverberates in the American psyche.
Readers of Devil Knows Writing their Reviews on Amazon Agree
I’ve always loved fictional works dealing with our country’s early history—from Hawthorne to Miller to the recent film ‘The Witch’. David Kolb’s fantastic Devil Knows gave me a deeper appreciation for the forces at work within the colony, as well as the sense of both isolation and possibility that the early residents of Massachusetts must have felt. I also just moved to Boston, so learning about the city’s roots was a real revelation. The fact that there is a statue of Mary Dyer in front of the statehouse says a lot about how our historical perspective has shifted. The tale of the Mather family, in particular, was fascinating. Cotton comes off as a Puritan curmudgeon in the history books, but in reality he was a master of colonial realpolitik, and an impressive scholar as well. The story is well-paced, and the author clearly spent a lot of time and energy on the setting and characters. While you’re reading “Devil Knows”, you temporarily forget about all of the future successes that were to accrue to this nation—you see it as they must have, a small outpost of tenuous civilization, surrounded by an alien and hostile wilderness.
He very skillfully introduces us to an engaging character whose life we travel through as the threads of this intricately woven story unravels. The layers of history that we learn about along the way on this suspenseful journey are both surprising and appalling. I could not put this book down until the last page was turned!
Devil Knows is an intriguing story creatively woven into actual historical events using actual historical figures. The author presents us with insight into the minds of the early New England colonists as well as the Native Americans inhabitants.
What an attention keeper, amazingly written the author writes with suspense, graphics and detail…everyone should read this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Devil Knows and gained a more nuanced appreciation for the infamous events of that period. In fact, I felt knee-deep in it. The central mystery pulled me through the mess of early New England along with characters who are surprisingly understandable when viewed through their historical context. Yet the themes of intolerance and brutality; compassion and bravery speak not just to America’s history. A great story well told.
The author has thoroughly researched an early American period and provided insight into a dark chapter in the history of our country, with enough fiction mixed into keep the story intriguing. Plenty of detail and well developed characters keep the history from being dry, and it is fascinating to learn in the afterward how much fact and how little fiction is contained in the story. I may read it again to apply what I learned later in to book to the earlier chapters to increase my understanding. Great presentation that I highly recommend.
Devil Knows captured my interest on page 1 and kept me under its spell to the very end. Not being much of a history buff I was surprised and delighted to find myself getting caught up in the period, fascinated by the difficult life of our early American ancestors. Hopestill Foster, through whose eyes much of the story is told, was a delightful combination of simplicity and courage, and I truly cared what happened to him. This is the first time I can remember enjoying a story so much while at the same time coming away from a book feeling like I’d genuinely learned something. Part mystery, part history, totally enthralling!
I just finished Devil Knows and it was great! I loved the history, and I have a much clearer understanding of the cultural context of the witch trials. The novel eloquently portrays the conflict of religion and governance, religion and commerce, the Native American Tribes and the tragic arrogance of British and French colonization. Wow! It has everything a good story needs.
David Joseph Kolb, a Pulitzer nominated journalist, has thirteen five star reviews on Amazon for Devil Knows. We expect many more such reviews from enthusiastic readers and end this post with just one more:
An absolutely enthralling book from page one. Kolb knows exactly how to weave a narrative that keeps you turning pages. A truly well-researched book, amazing characters, unique plot and a must-read for history buffs. This is one you don’t want to miss, folks!
At Garn we agree. Devil Knows is a great summer read and we highly recommend it.