Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Devil’s Advocate: Andrew Neiderman, March 29—April 4, 2012
My rating: ♦♦◊◊◊
The protagonist – Kevin Taylor, not Lomax – is a far more likeable lead character. Or, since this isn’t a comparison of the book and movie, a likeable character. He appears genuinely talented and, when given the opportunity, attempts to better his lot for the benefit of himself and his wife. This leads him to John Milton Associates.
Although I normally aim to keep my reviews spoiler-free, not discussing the ending to The Devil’s Advocate is like missing out the iceberg in a review of Titanic. Even without the infamous film, the book’s title and blurb make it abundantly clear that Taylor is in fact working for Satan, hence his unblemished record.
Neiderman weaves in subtle ironies before the reveal that are marginally witty, but the wait for the punchline is a long one. Because it’s an anticipated ‘twist’, the reader really is just waiting for Taylor to twig. The company is so amazing, everyone is so happy, their lives are such luxury, Neiderman spoon feeds the not-so-subtle hints with a shovel ten times the size of the reader’s mouth. This continues for the bulk of the novel to the point you’re so bloody bored of waiting for the ‘reveal’ that you essentially want to boot Taylor and co into hell yourself and be done with it.
Along the way, there is a case which Taylor takes on while working for the firm (not surprisingly). If it’s an afterthought in my review, that’s because it’s an afterthought in the book. Neiderman doesn’t spend any amount of time on it so really, nobody cares.
Although the Milton-is-Satan ‘twist’ plays out per the movie (or, actually, in the movie per the book), the remainder of the endings are radically different in every way. Neiderman, once he finally gets round to it, comes into his own in the dénouement and leads the reader by the nose through a series of quite unexpected twists to a very surprising – yet very fitting – ending.
Despite the strength of the ending, the whole novel is very much geared towards that final act and as such it becomes one of those disappointing stories that’s all about the destination and not at all about the ride. It’s not enjoyable journeying with the character to the end, it’s a slog of perseverance to get there. The writing is weak and horrendously, toe-curlingly, butt-clenchingly repetitive. In all, it’s a great concept executed poorly. You could say the outside appearance of the idea is better than the content inside. You could say vanity is Neiderman’s favourite sin.