cover image Devil’s Day

Devil’s Day

Andrew Michael Hurley. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-328-48988-3

Acentury-old folk legend—that the devil came down one autumn to the English sheep-farming community known as the Endlands and surreptitiously infected everyone he came into contact with before being driven out—colors the haunting events of this masterly thriller from Hurley (The Loney). In contemporary times, schoolteacher John Pentecost returns from Suffolk to his family’s Endlands farm with his wife, Kat, to attend the funeral of his grandfather and announce the impending birth of their first child. Almost immediately, they step into a mire of ominous portents: someone recently set fire to the nearby forest, animals are being killed, disembodied voices are heard on the moors, and one of the residents is mysteriously missing. Matters come to a head on Devil’s Day, celebrated before the annual gathering of the sheep, when the locals ritually give the devil his due and the border between superstitions and genuinely uncanny events wears perilously thin. Hurley keeps the explanations for what occurs deliciously ambiguous, filtering discoveries through John, who, as he selectively relates past memories to present happenings, reveals himself to be a less-than-forthcoming narrator at best. The result is an intensely suspenseful tale memorable for what it says about unshakable traditions that are bred in the bone. Agent: Lucy Luck, C+W Agency (U.K.). (Oct.)