Review by ciecheesemeister -- Devil Among Us

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Review by ciecheesemeister -- Devil Among Us

Post by ciecheesemeister »

[Following is a volunteer review of "Devil Among Us" by Jack Winnick.]
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1 out of 4 stars
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Devil Among Us is the second book in the Lara and Uri series by Jack Winnick. The story begins with what appears to be an orthodox Jewish family preparing for Yom Kippur services at a Brooklyn synagogue. During the service, the members of the family detonate the explosive devices they are wearing. Investigations reveal that the family members are not Jews, but radical Muslims who have disguised themselves as Jews. Further investigations reveal a cell of Muslim extremists disguised as Jews living and going to school in Waco, Texas. American FBI agent Lara Edmond and Mossad operative Uri Levin, who were introduced in the first book in the series, are assigned to go undercover to stop the terrorists from wreaking further havoc.

The thing I liked best about Devil Among Us was the author’s attention to detail. Jack Winnick is a competent writer overall and has shown himself to be more than capable of telling engaging stories. Thus, it saddens me to give Devil Among Us one out of four stars. There isn’t one specific thing that I can say I disliked most. I have numerous issues with this book and cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone.

I was greatly impressed with East Wind, the first book in the series, and was looking forward to reading its sequel. Unfortunately, Devil Among Us lacks the qualities that made East Wind successful. Where East Wind depicts the terrorists as human beings who have been taught to embrace erroneous beliefs, many of the Arabs in Devil Among Us are caricatures. The Syrian leader, Aboud Al Agha, for instance, is described thusly:

“The weapons were almost unnecessary; his visage was enough to bring fear to most men. He had a massive head, adorned with an uncommonly large nose and ears. But his mouth was most menacing of all: his large teeth, which appeared whenever he smiled evilly, were that of a primitive carnivore. His large, pointed canines looked capable, at any time, of ripping out the throat of anyone who displeased him. He terrified the mostly-illiterate Syrian Arabs.”

Most villains do not do us the favor of looking like villains. Although he was responsible for many atrocities, Saddam Hussein, for instance, had a distinguished appearance. Similarly, the physical appearances of Muammar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden did not reflect their crimes against humanity. The fact that most monsters look like ordinary humans is perhaps their most frightening attribute. Descriptions such as the one above do more to reveal the author’s prejudices against Arabs and those who do not meet high standards of attractiveness than to effectively depict the corrupt attitudes of extremists.

Further, although the book appeared to be professionally edited, there were more typos than there were in East Wind, and the formatting was sloppy in places. There were times when it was clear that there should have been a new paragraph (i.e. there was a large gap between words) but the break between paragraphs did not occur.

I was appalled by the author’s dehumanization of Lara during the scenes when she was molested and nearly raped by the terrorists and gobsmacked by Uri’s response. When Lara and Uri are handcuffed to a post and left with the supposition that they will die in a forthcoming explosion, Lara states: "I'm wearing a pair of small hoop earrings; our raghead friends didn't notice them; they were too interested in my crotch."

"And who could blame them?” Uri replies.

This is the worst response a man could have in a situation where his partner has been assaulted. This exchange shows that Uri views Lara as a sexual object rather than a human being. He might as well have said “well, who could blame them for groping you? After all, you’re wandering around with female genitalia. No man can stop himself from grabbing a piece of that.”

Later, after Lara is nearly raped, she and Uri return to the hotel and have sex as if she had endured a minor inconvenience. I feel that the author must not have consulted with any real women regarding the way they would feel after almost being sexually assaulted. I do not think many of us would be feeling ripe for a horizontal tango after such an event had taken place. At this point, Lara seemed like a caricature of a woman, a Mary Sue rather than a realistic female protagonist.

Although the author does criticize the extreme right and has some valid points regarding certain actions by the far left, his anti-liberal bias takes some strange turns. At one point he writes:

“On the other hand, much of the urban population was hysterically ultra-liberal. They tended to vote in exactly the opposite manner as their rural neighbors, no matter how absurd the cause. For example, some communities had passed laws forbidding the de-clawing of cats. Veterinarians who performed this surgery were subject to a fine and loss of license.”

I am at a loss to understand how a law concerning animal welfare has a place in the plot of this book, which is about tensions between the Arab nations, Israel, and the United States. Further, I take umbrage at the assertion that desiring humane treatment of animals is “hysterically ultra-liberal.” I feel that the author failed to research a law which he clearly finds laughable. “Declawing” is a term that downplays what this procedure entails. The procedure not only removes the animal’s claws, but it also amputates the first joint of their toes. It is more akin to removing the first joint of a person’s fingers than to destroying the nail matrix so the nail can no longer grow but preserving the structure of the finger. Cats can suffer lifelong complications from the “declawing” procedure. It should be outlawed. Compassion for animals is not “hysterical.”

I will give the remaining books in the series a chance because I greatly enjoyed East Wind. Had I read Devil Among Us first, I would never have wished to read further works by Mr. Winnick.

Devil Among Us
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Post by [Danielle] »

Thank you for your honest review. I may have to skip this read.
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore
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