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Literature / The Devil's Only Friend

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The first in a new trilogy about John Wayne Cleaver, this novel picks up about a year after the conclusion of the previous book.

As indicated by the ending of that book, John and Brooke have joined an FBI team dedicated to hunting out and killing the supernatural monsters known as The Withered. Unfortunately, Brooke's experience as the host of Nobody, while giving her insider knowledge about the Withered (including their proper name), has also made her mentally unstable and often incapable of differentiating between the memories of hundreds of past lives from Nobody and her own day to day existence.


John, meanwhile, is chafing under the restrictions of working with a team and never being permitted to deal the final blow when they finally flush out the Withered. He's reinstated some of his 'rules' to prevent himself from completely losing it, but his violent urges and problems with connecting to other people remain, and he frequently fantasizes about killing his teammates. Their teammates mostly dislike or are disturbed by him, and find Brooke a useful tool at best and a scary crazy chick at worst. Things are not exactly going great, and that's even before they begin to realize that the Withered have taken notice of their actions and may be preparing to strike back...


This book has examples of:

  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Parasitic supernatural creatures vs. criminals with varying intentions.
  • Boxed Crook: Many members of the strike team are guilty of various crimes, from gangbanging to actual war crimes.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: Rack's dossier on John fills new readers in on his past exploits.
    I haven't forgotten about you either, John. I'm sure your friends know about the man you electrocuted;that was in the papers. Do they know about the time you beat your elderly neighbor half to death and killed her husband? What about the time you soaked your mother in gas and burned her alive in a car?
  • Curse Cut Short: A rare case of the curser cutting himself off. Sharing space with people....stresses John out. Especially when those people want to bring nice, red, choppable meat into his apartment.
    John: I'm a vegetarian, and rather militant about it. No meat of any kind in the house. You so much as order a pepperoni pizza and you eat it outside.[..] No animals of any kind.
    Potash: Eggs?
    John: Eggs are fine. You can eat all the f- [deep breathing exercises]
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  • Dark and Troubled Past: Every member of the team has one, being the reason they enlisted or were forced to join the team in the first place. It is redacted from their personal dossiers, which Rack manages to get his hands on during the course of the book and reveals to the team every member's dirty secrets, save for Potash who even he could apparently not find anything on.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the first trilogy, which is saying something. The language is a bit rougher, it's tonally more serious, having abandoned the high school setting and the adolescent drama that surrounded it, and there's more open acknowledgement of sexuality. Usually in a bad way.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Having no mouth and no heart, Rack is only able to communicate through dead bodies' mouths, taking their heart in the process. John uses it to his advantage by using Nathan's corpse and embalming his body with gasoline, resulting in Rack dying poisoned after taking Nathan's heart.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: After the strike team tries to take on Rack, John and Elijah are the only survivors. Then by the end of the book, the rest of the FBI team is decimated, the antagonist is dead, and John and Brooke are the only ones to have survived the events of the book.
  • Funny Background Event: Brooke taking her anger out on everything available with a wrench while Nathan and John discuss their dead teammates.
  • Heartbroken Badass: John is effectively in mourning throughout the book. The climax revolves around his having to accept and deal with the pain instead of pushing it away or numbing it like he always does.
  • Heroic BSoD: John slips into one after killing Agarin, partially because he's never lost control so badly before and partially because she's his third kill, and he knows what that means in criminology. Once is murder, twice is a coincidence, three times is a serial killer. He took a shower, curled up on a chair, and stared at the wall for thirteen hours.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: More obvious than ever, with John's frustration over planning the murders, but getting no "release" making it all too easy to ask Does This Remind You of Anything?
  • Just a Kid / Tagalong Kid: John, much to his displeasure. Prodigy he may be, but the FBI team mostly sees him as a mouthy teenager.
  • Many Spirits Inside of One: Brooke's Split Personality is close to this, with at least thirty known different personalities.
  • Monster Lord: Rack, the main antagonist of this book, is referred to as the kingnote  of the Withered, and it is explained that he was the one that "came up" with the plan of gaining eternal life by giving something in exchange and turning into Withered.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several.
    • John after realizing that Potash was conscious and watching while he lost control and started Pummeling the Corpse.
    • The strike team as a whole when they reach Rack's house and realize exactly how deep the shit they're in is.
    • Rack himself, as he realizes what John has done to Nathan's body.
  • The Ophelia: Holding thousands of years of Withered memory has done a number on Brooke's sanity.
  • Pet the Dog: Every time John visits Brooke in the hospital. He also adopts a dog and it's still alive at the end of the book!. It seems somewhat taken with him.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Kelly Ishida.
  • Shower of Angst: John takes one after killing Mary Gardner, and another after the final confrontation with Rack and Nathan.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Nathan Gentry is the newest member of the team at the beginning of the book, and he is the one who betrayed them for Rack's promises of fortune.
    • John himself, in a way. He is on the fringes of the group, a recent and distrusted acquisition, and actively plots to escape and/or murder his teammates. You know. If necessary.
  • The Final Temptation: A variation in the climax. Rack offers to demonize John and suggests that his sacrifice for it should be to give up his pain. It's hardly the typical vision of contentment and tranquility, but John is hardly the typical vision of a hero. He would be free of the heartbreak over Marci and his mother, free of the struggle to be good and the confusion about what good even is that's hitting him hard, at the low, low cost of becoming what he has spent years trying not to be: a selfish, violent, unfeeling monster. He even calls rejecting it "giving up on peace".
  • There Are No Therapists: There is one, Dr. Trujillo, the team's psychologist, but John doesn't like him in part because of how he treats Brooke.
  • Time Skip: The book takes place almost a year after the events of I Don't Want to Kill You, with John having joined the team sometime between both books, and solved at least two cases in the meantime.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out anything concrete about Potash's past. We also don't know what made Kelly Ishida end up on the team.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: By the end of the book, John fears he's been committing these with his black-and-white "humans good, demons bad" morality.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The first death of a team member (Kelly) may come off as this.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Rack sends the team a letter detailing each member's Dark and Troubled Past, this is the reaction all of them get from the others. Most notably is the collective disgust to Ostler and Trujillo's pasts: one illegally sold guns to Mexican cartels and the other served out a sentence for statutory rape.

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