North Carolina author J. D. Rhoades is the latest to toss his hat into the ring of Southern thrillers. He has a fine first effort in THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND.
Jack Keller is a man who walks a thin line between the legal side of things and the not so legal. As a bail bondsman, he is not well-liked among the North Carolina police. In fact, they routinely take a strong --- and mostly undeserved --- disliking to him. But he stubbornly pursues bail-jumpers, and his tenacity almost always pays off. This time, though, his target, small-time thug DeWayne Puryear, plunges both of them into extreme danger, and the cops are anything but helpful. In fact, things might have gone smoothly if not for their interference.
DeWayne and his cousin, Leonard, far from being mental giants, pull an incredibly stupid burglary that, naturally, goes horribly wrong, leaving one man dead. The recently deceased has family members who do not take the news well. It becomes their all-consuming goal to avenge the murder. After all, that was their daddy the burglars knocked off. Somehow, as information gets passed from mouth to mouth, Keller's name gets tangled up with that of the Puryears and the chase revolves around him as much as it does DeWayne and Leonard. All too quickly, he has a cadre of police and a gang of bad guys on his tail. And while this horde of humanity is hunting him, Keller is still pursuing Puryear. It seems it couldn't get much tougher for him. Of course, it does.
Keller needed a little excitement in his life to jump-start his mood. What he got, however, turns out to be more than a little excitement. It borders on sheer adrenalin-pumping terror. Add to that a huge void in the friends department (his boss seems to be the only person in the world who likes him) and Keller's future is anything but enviable. By happy chance, a lovely female cop --- the sole woman in the batch of North Carolina's finest who has taken an intense interest in him --- turns out to be as romantically needy as Jack. Without her, he may not live to work another case.
Many times in THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND, it seems hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Keller operates in a world where the cops are almost worse than the criminals they have sworn to apprehend, and the courts --- those lofty folks charged with meting out justice --- come across as grossly inept and highly biased. Nonetheless, the nonstop action will keep every reader glued to the page.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 24, 2011