Conversations with the Devil by Jeff Rovin © 2007, Tom Doherty Associates
Conversations pleasantly surprised me for being about a person grappling with her own demons more than Satan himself. It was thoughtful and kept focused on the protagonist’s inner struggle rather than relying on horror and nail-biting action. Sarah is a psychologist who loses a young patient to suicide, which Sarah didn’t see coming. Trying to find out why the patient did himself in, Sarah discovers the patient had been involved in devil worship. Sarah follows the patient’s devil summoning routine trying to figure out her patient’s state of mind, and lo and behold she really does summon Satan. His Darkness never provides Sarah the answer about her patient, but tempts Sarah with promises of a better life if she will become a follower. In that process we learn about sins haunting Sarah from her past which have kept her spiritually wanting in this world.
Rovin does well keeping the reader in Sarah’s mind throughout and presenting her as a believably flawed character. Conversations could have used a stronger supporting character to reflect Sarah’s struggles through an avenue other than herself. Rovin tried to spread the supporting character function among a half dozen characters who were not in the story enough to forge dramatic relationships with Sarah.
The devil, physically, is basically what you’d expect with a few original touches, like his slow corporeal emergence and grotesque in some ways, beautiful in others, appearance. Rovin’s devil didn’t make me want to sleep with the lights on, but that was appropriate to keep the story’s focus on Sarah, who in the end learns more about herself than about the Prince of Darkness.
I wouldn’t call it a scary story, but I cared if Sarah would extricate herself from the trouble she brewed up. Conversations will stay on my bookshelf as soon as my wife is done reading it!