Monday, December 12, 2011

The Muse Reviews: Devil Unknown by Steena Holmes

A supernatural thriller about a small town facing a mysterious evil, and the former pastor who doesn’t yet realize he is at the center of it all…

When Devil Unknown begins, Nathan Hanlin is trying to cope with his life, which seems to be spiraling out of control. He used to be the pastor of the small town of Bandit Creek, but after his wife dies in a tragic accident, Nathan just can’t forgive God. He quits his job and tries to manage, but he’s still troubled. His friends are frustrated with his spiritual malaise. Nathan can’t even decide what to do about Rachel, a woman he likes but isn’t quite willing to commit himself to, because he’s still hurting over the death of his wife.

And now, things seem to be getting worse. An evil descends on the town in the form of a mysterious figure that seems to be demonic in nature. Everyone is looking to Nathan for spiritual guidance that he isn’t comfortable offering. He wonders if he is going crazy, just as his mother did. And when he finds out a secret from his mother’s past, he is forced to wonder if crazy would be preferable to the truth.

Author Steena Holmes has written a compelling and intriguing story that touches on love, loss, good and evil, faith and doubt. It resonates with these greater themes, but it’s also a well-written thriller that keeps readers turning the pages. I have to admit, I made it through Devil Unknown in record time. It was hard to put down. I kept wanting to know how the mystery ends.

To give you fair warning, Devil Unknown is the first part of the story. The sequel, Nephilim Arise, will continue the tale. So don’t be surprised when Devil Unknown ends on a cliffhanger that pushes the story in an unexpected direction that makes a lot of sense in retrospect. (That’s how you know the author did her job—when a moment takes you by surprise and at the same time makes you think, “Yes, of course! Why didn’t I see that sooner?”)

Having gone through my own crisis of faith, of sorts, after some sad things happened in my own family, Nathan’s reactions to his mother’s mental illness and his own loss of his wife and the unborn baby she was carrying make perfect sense to me. He’s believable as a man trying to navigate a tragedy of the worst kind. The other characters are also believable, though I would have loved a little more development for Rachel. But that really isn’t much of a problem in the scheme of things.

The plot will keep you interested as you watch Nathan and the others trying to understand and fight the evil that has apparently descended on them. And Holmes’ writing style is a good mix of tangible description, character-driven dialogue, and narration that drops clues to the mystery surrounding Nathan’s life.

The Christian elements in the story make perfect sense because of Nathan’s past role as a clergyman. But they don’t overpower the story. Devil Unknown will appeal to everyone who likes a good supernatural thriller. And let’s face it—the battle between heaven and hell for a man’s soul is a staple of fiction. Steena Holmes has written a strong novel to add to that classic tradition. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

For more information about Devil Unknown, visit the website of Steena Holmes. And learn more about the other authors who are writing stories set in the town of Bandit Creek.

Enter the Giveaway Contest! Steena Holmes has graciously offered to gift her book to one lucky person who reads this blog post. To participate, all you need to do is write a comment below and let me know you’re entering the contest (with your email contact information so I can notify you if you win). Each person who comments will be entered once (and only once), and I’ll choose a winner at random. Contest ends on December 21.

Update:  I intend to use the email info only to notify you if you win. But if you have any concerns about that, feel free to enter by giving me your Twitter handle and following me on Twitter, so I can notify you that way.

Update #2: A winner has been chosen: Jae! Congratulations, Jae! 
Winner was selected through the sequence generator at

Copyright © 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. Nice review, will definitely look into this although I may have to wait until the sequel comes out. Sounds like this may end up being a Christmas gift for some family members though.

  2. oooh, this looks like an interesting read, so I would lobe to be entered in the giveaway! Email is rebekah dot loper at gmail dot com :)

    I've thought about writing some of the things I've gone through in my life into a story . . . do you think I could invent the 'theological horror' genre? :D

  3. Michele, you are a sweetie! Thank you for your review. As a former pastor, it was important that Nathan's story ring true, and I'm glad you were able to see that. I would say sorry for the cliff hanger .. but it was too good not to put in! I hope you'll enjoy Nephilim Arise when it comes out :)

  4. I'm in! This book is on my to buy/to read list! REad the opening chapter and was totally hooked!

    laurapauling at yahoo dot com

  5. Gee, can your mother win or would that be nepotism? Good post. The book sounds interesting. I'll have to check the library and see if they have it.

  6. Steena, thank you! Yes, the story definitely rings true, which is a great strength of the novel. As for the cliffhanger, how can I fault a fellow writer for that? I'd have done the same thing!

    For everyone entering the contest: Just to confirm how the contest works... Everyone gets a single entry (even Mom, though if she wins, I will buy her the book, draw another entry, and award the gift to someone not related to me). Winner gets picked by the random sequence generator through random dot org.

  7. sounds like a good book! chastain1997 at

  8. It is nice to hear when I book actually flows & keeps you hooked. Nice review for Steena & I hope she advertises it! Nothing better than the compliment of saying that you were on pins and needles wanting to know where it goes from there, only to realize that you have to wait for the next book.

    PS. also wanted to say hi to another writer from Lynette's review.

  9. Currently I'm hooked on reading Frank Peretti's books and love them! This sounds like it would read along the lines of Piercing the Darkness/This Present Darkness, two phenomenal books. I'd really like to read this one as well.

    jbardel at rhema dot org


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