Grayson Hale, the most infamous murderer in Scotland, is better known by a different name: the Devil's Advocate. The twenty-five-year-old American grad student rose to instant notoriety when he confessed to the slaughter of his classmate Liam Stewart, claiming the Devil made him do it.
Most crime-fiction readers feel comfortable with unreliable narrators, but that comfort vanishes only a few pages into this wildly unsettling, creepy blend of horror and thriller ... What makes this debut so chilling is that we desperately want to believe Hale, despite what that says about what’s lurking outside our windows.
It is frustratingly obvious that Grayson Hale is an unreliable narrator. Dumas reveals more information carefully as the tale progresses, but even then, the truth is elusive and perspectives fail to align ... Part thriller, part domestic fiction and part horror, A History of Fear lives on the edges of genres as its protagonist also exists on the edges. Suspenseful but occasionally too murky and repetitive, this debut novel heralds the arrival of an interesting and unique storyteller.
What makes this first-person novel so chilling is that Grayson, an American graduate student in Edinburgh, sounds completely sane ... Lean and propulsive, this dissection of evil marches forward with a deadly logic and sleight of hand, with occasional gaps filled in by an enterprising journalist and a Scottish information commissioner. The key is that we feel for Grayson ... The characters surrounding him, from his ghoulish family to his annoying roommate to his eventual victim, come to life on the page, all part of Grayson’s living nightmare ... It’s a patient pursuit and a patient book, one that builds without the reader quite realizing it. It blurs the line between mental illness and something less definable, more supernatural and sinister. A muscular, enigmatic, and devilishly smart read.