“A fast-paced thriller with an all-too-real threat, mixed with a heady portion of chilling occultism.”
He may have taken a detour to pursue a career in music, first as a performer and then as a recording engineer, but Douglas Wynne has returned to his first love of fiction writing with vigour, releasing eight books in six years, as well as having short stories included in numerous anthologies. This year alone has seen the publication of three novels already, The Wind in My Heart (Crystal Lake Publishing) in January, and His Own Devices and The Devil of Echo Lake (both Promethean) in March and April, respectively.
In His Own Devices, we meet young mother and army wife Jessica Ritter, whose husband has recently been deployed in Afghanistan. This isn’t a new experience for Jessica but, with a ten-year-old son, Gavin, struggling to come to terms with the distance, and not being able to see his father every day, Jessica knows that she has her hands full. One area of refuge for Gavin is his following of internet video sensation, Rainbow Dave. With his multi-coloured hair and eternally sunny disposition, Dave has gained millions of fans, young and old, who come to regard him as a beacon of light. Jessica must balance her son’s need for social interaction via this online community, and his exposure to technology.
Unfortunately, there are more sinister forces at play, and Jessica will discover that she has more to worry about than just Gavin’s screen time. Behind Dave’s façade is a tortured history that makes him an easy target for manipulation by great and hidden influences, and they see Dave as a vehicle for affecting his followers. Hinted at throughout the story, but not truly seen until the conclusion, they give the story an added darkness. And a touchstone with reality, as Wynne connects these forces with the occult teachings of Edward Kelley and John Dee, and their connection with the demon Choronzon.
Wynne shifts point of view throughout the novel, offering insights into the thinking of Jessica and Gavin as they deal with the unfolding drama. Readers with children of their own will no doubt relate to Jessica’s concerns for her son and his growing reliance on technology, especially those with kids in the same age range who find themselves drawn to the social nature of video streaming and social media platforms, with their magnetic personalities. In doing so, Wynne creates a connection between the reader and Jessica, so that we feel her terror. We may also relate somewhat with Gavin. His family dynamic is unique, but most of us have experienced difficult moments in our youth, whether it be the struggle to find our place or feelings of loneliness.
We also see some of the action from the point of view of Dave, but never to the point of giving too much of the details away. Wynne does a good job of revealing just enough of the true nature of Dave’s actions and motivations without giving it all away, thus keeping our attention to the very end. Some of these scenes were the most chilling of all, witnessing this lovable personality beloved by millions, both adult and child alike, descend into a bleak pit of despair, directed by the true antagonists like a puppet on a string. The introduction of Gavin’s technology teacher, Mr Strauss, adds another dimension to the drama, and an ally for Jessica. Although initially seen as a secondary character at first, Strauss takes a more active role when he realises the extent of the danger facing his student.
What begins as a technological thriller quickly develops into something more with the introduction of the supernatural back story. Although, with its strong characters and immediately accessible plot revolving around the targeting of vulnerable youngsters through an online game, the book would work very well as a thriller, the addition of the occult storyline gives it a creepy and disturbing tone. It preys on the fears of anyone with young children or, indeed, anyone who finds themselves losing touch with the fast pace of technological and online advancements, and it does so well. Wynne has adeptly created a fast-paced thriller with an all-too-real threat, mixed with a heady portion of chilling occultism.
eBook: 246 (pps.)
Release Date: 4 March 2021
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