Book Review: The Devil’s Mask by Christopher Wakling

devilsmaskDevil’s Mask by Christopher Wakling

Received May 2011 from Faber and Faber via the Early Reviewers on Librarything. I assumed it’s an Uncorrected Proof when reviewing, though this has not been explicitly stated.

I read the prologue the day I got the book, then put it aside to concentrate on the current read (The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt – zzzzzzzzz). Anyway gave up on that book in favour of this, and I’m glad I did. Starting with chapter 1, I initially thought it had forwarded onto a 21st Century setting – the main character descending into his favourite coffee shop and being served ahead of the irregulars who were already there. It wasn’t until later in the chapter that you realised the story was set not long after the abolition of slavery. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that during the whole story you dont actually know what year it’s set in.

Anyway, the story progresses on in a fast paced measure, as Inigo starts to investigate the discrepancies in the port ledgers for one trading company in particular (with which his family have a vested interest) and the disappearance of his lawyer mentor.

When I put my name in for this book I had recently read March by Geraldine Brooks which was set during the slavery period in America and had some quite brutal depictions of how slaves were treated on the plantations. The transportation of slaves in tight, cramped conditions was covered in The Devil’s Mask but was less confrontational – the focussing on woman was a suitable touch.

One thing I was struck with whilst reading the book: During the story, Inigo gets beaten up (several times), has walked through rain, mud and sewage, stayed up all night over several nights. I think there’s one mention of changing a shirt (but no shoes or trousers); One quip about his hair after walking in rain; however, no other changes of clothes, no “Inigo, what’s with the thick ear?” after the fight in the pub, no little children running away/making fun of beaten up faces; One mention about a bruise on his belly (but his face pretty enough to have escaped any damage whatsoever) and apart from multiple cups of coffee and one meal with his father, apparently Inigo doesnt eat, doesnt wash or change his clothes and rarely sleeps. At all. And considering the lack of other description of either Inigo or any other major character, the multiple reference to Inigo’s hair did begin to grate after a while

Despite the impression I give in the previous paragraph,  I enjoyed it, it was well written and suitably paced



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