By G. Robert Frazier
We’ve all got a bit of the devil inside vying to get out. And, unless we’ve had too much to drink or we’ve been reading too many political posts on Facebook, we’re usually able to rein it in.
Maureen Coughlin, the hero of Bill Loehfelm’s latest novel, Let the Devil Out, seems to struggle with her inner demon a bit more than most. A tough and gritty New Orleans beat cop, Coughlin is a complex character with a deep sense of moral justice and pent-up rage.
Fortunately for us, she’s one of the good guys.
Let the Devil Out (Sarah Crichton Books, $26) is the fourth outing for Coughlin. Loehfelm’s readers have seen her transformation from that of a New York waitress to a cop in training to rookie beat cop. Each book feels like a new TV season unfolding.
Loehfelm brings new readers up to date early and quickly while moving on to new developments. During the “recap” portion of the book, Coughlin is on the sidelines, serving out an administrative leave following events in the previous book. While she bides her time towards getting her badge back, her boredom, and impatience with the slow wheels of justice, gets the best of her. She tracks down a man who has been stalking local women and, disguised in a dark hoodie in the dead of night, gives him a brutal asp-whupping, and a warning before leaving him to nurse his wounds on the sidewalk in front of the home of his latest intended victim.
The devil indeed.
Before long, Coughlin is back in uniform and on the beat where her no-nonsense attitude continues to fester, along with some unfinished business from the previous books.
Her uniform and badge, coupled with sage advice and words of caution from her mentor Preacher Boyd, though, seem to at last rein in her emotions. At least for a while.
When a white supremacist group begins taking aim at fellow cops later in the book, including Preacher, the devil itches to come out again, uniform or not.
Loehfelm has created a gutsy yet vulnerable hero in Coughlin. Setting her down in the tattered-yet-rebuilding city of New Orleans adds a dimension of depth and verisimilitude to her personal journey.