Title: The Devil's Breath
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Publication Date: January 22, 2019
Length: 193 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
Henri’s stalker has left him with a paradoxical legacy: his mind rebels at the thought of being touched—the very thing his body craves.
For three years Henri has fought to overcome the horrors of the past. Now on the other side of the world—after leaving Australia for Canada—Henri’s nemesis is hunting him with maniacal focus. Trying to escape, he meets Birch, a kind horse trainer, who’s confounded by Henri’s idiosyncrasies even as he is drawn to him. But when Birch discovers the truth, he encourages Henri not to just survive, but to live.
Maybe even to love.
Surely with the violently crazy stalker who had abducted and tortured Henri behind bars in a maximum security prison, Henri could now breathe free and rebuild his life once more. Having moved clear across the world in order to escape the memories and put as much distance between him and the man who nearly destroyed his life, Henri was ready to consider settling down and starting fresh. He craved the touch of another—something that he still couldn’t abide without paralyzing fear and nausea taking over. Perhaps he could have that one day—feel safe enough to love again. After all, he was safe now, even though he had to remind himself of that daily. But his walk in the park grinds to a halt when Henri finds the bullet taped to his car door handle. As his brain seizes on the only thing that could mean, Henri reenters the living hell he was sure he had escaped. The man who nearly destroyed him is somehow free and is back—this time to keep Henri forever.
Birch was minding his own business and enjoying a coffee when the panic stricken man burst in from the street. Going to his aid seemed natural and just like the horses he so often rehabilitated, Birch recognized trauma and it’s aftereffects. When he agrees to take Henri to the police station, little does Birch realize that not only is he stepping into a viper’s nest but also offering himself up to help save the viper’s victim—the beautiful stranger who lives on the edge of terror.
I must admit my first foray into the work of author A. Nybo was a delightful one. This story was everything one could ask for in an action thriller—a crazy stalker, a recovering victim, a chance encounter with a kind passerby and enough tension to cut with a knife. The Devil’s Breath moved with lightening speed. I was hooked from the first chapter and sucked into the hell that had become Henri’s life. With every move to each new safe house, the author kept me guessing as to when the villain, scratch that, the certifiably insane stalker would finally snatch Henri back. What I loved most about this novel was that we got a real sense of how incredibly evil Russell was not because we heard chapter and verse of all the horrible things Henri had endured but because we got just enough back story to be terrified that the guy would snatch Henri again. This was a classic example of a psychological thriller done right—give the audience just enough to make them nearly sick with fear but not so much as to deaden their reaction to every little bump in the night.
We lived the nightmare of Henri’s recognition that the man who had honestly systematically taken over every aspect of his life and got off on torturing him was free to do it all again if given the chance.
The saving grace? A quiet, gentle man who worked with abused horses and who lived a simple life. Birch was everything. Never naive but fully cognizant that danger was prevalent and real, he chose to focus on being in the moment for Henri—for being a source of healing and strength rather than allowing the nightmare he’d accidentally stepped into to overcome him. I think my only real complaint with this story was that I wish we’d had more time with Birch recognizing just how malevolent Russell was and the depths of the guy’s craziness. However, that is really a minor niggle when there was so much of this book that was done just right.
The Devil’s Breath is a gripping psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. For fans of this genre this one will be a homerun.
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