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Tuesday, 14 January 2020

‘Ten for the Devil’ by Trevor K Bell

Published by Book Guild Publishing,
 28 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-91288196-3 (PB)

Ten apparently unconnected people receive letters asking them to participate in a psychological experiment that will take place on Magpie Island.  The invitations have been sent by the psychologist purporting to be leading the experiment, Dr Crogil.  None of the unlikely group know Crogil, but each of them is promised free accommodation in the only building on the landmass, Magpie House, and the promise of £150 at the conclusion of the tests.  The island is situated off the west coast of Scotland.  It is surrounded by treacherous currents and can only be reached by boat when the weather is calm.  One member of the group expresses her delight at the prospect:

“…I think it’s marvellous getting a free holiday out of this experiment of Dr Crogil’s, and we’re having a sea cruise into the bargain!”

Such an inaccessible location is a haven for birds of all kinds and a paradise for ornithologists.  It is also the perfect place to lure one’s enemies and bump them off one by one!  It is not long before the assembled company begin to question the wisdom of their decision to accept Crogil’s invitation.

Gothic tropes abound in this mystery and infuse the text from the moment the group embark on the unpleasant sea journey required to reach the island.  The voyage takes them past the “Devil’s Legs”, two steep rocks that rise up from an area of swirling waves appropriately known as the “Witches’ Cauldron”.  The group finally land and must then negotiate the steep, inhospitable climb that leads to Magpie House where they discover that each bedroom contains a framed copy of “The Magpie Rhyme,” with its unnerving final line:

“Ten for hell and the Devil’s own.”

It is hardly surprising that several of the company are rattled as they take themselves off to bed on the first evening of their stay.  Needless to say, things are about to get much, much worse!

The setting and events depicted in Ten for the Devil create a wonderfully macabre atmosphere.  The plot is well-paced and has several unexpected twists that challenge the reader to work out the identity of the elusive Dr Crogil.  The novel explores the different responses of each of the ten people as they begin to realise that they have been lured into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.  Not knowing who to trust and being in fear of one’s life makes people do some strange things and Dr Crogil’s unfortunate guests are no exception.

Ten for the Devil is chilling, thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable as it moves rapidly towards an unexpected and delicious ending.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent
Trevor K Bell is a consulting psychologist with an interest in psychopathy and serial killers. He writes Gothic ghost and horror stories and enjoys reading whodunnits and thrillers. He lives in Cheshire with his wife.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction. 

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