The Devil’s Den

Written by Timothy Ashby
Review by Steve Donoghue

There are two parallel stories moving forward in Timothy Ashby’s tightly controlled and extremely satisfying novel Devil’s Den: the main one is set in 1923, when Seth Armitage (Ashby’s compelling main character), working for the Bureau of Investigation (later to morph into the FBI), is assigned to investigate the murder of a Civil War veteran on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the secondary story running through this book, the apocalyptic Battle of Gettysburg, in which one of the worst slaughter-pens was the location that gives the novel its title. The dead soldier leads Armitage to Peggy Stewart, the daughter of another veteran—and it also leads Armitage to more dead soldiers, and into a conspiracy that only seems to get darker the deeper he probes. The novel is grippingly panoramic in scope, stretching from vignettes involving Abraham Lincoln to the hotspots of the Jazz Era—and of course featuring several harrowing evocations of the Civil War’s bloodshed. Romantic sparks fly between Armitage and Peggy, the buried secrets of Armitage’s past are laid bare, and Ashby caps the action with a masterfully done courtroom scene. The book’s cover shows a sad old soldier superimposed on a fittingly blood-red background, and this is apt: Armitage must wade through a great deal of violence—some of it 60 years old, some of it very much in his present life—in order to unravel the mystery of who’s killing the heroes of the Civil War. Highly recommended.