Cover of The Devil Makes Three. A girl with blank eyes reads an old book.

About the Book

Title: The Devil Makes Three
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Focus! Focus!
Drinking Buddy: Sure
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (scary scenes, adult themes)
Talky Talk: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
Bonus Factor: Library
Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grown-Ups
Bromance Status: Study Buddies

Cover Story: Focus! Focus!

When in doubt, blur the faces. Spooooky! Wooo!

The Deal:

Tess Matheson, daughter of poor working class parents, gets the opportunity of a lifetime when her aunt arranges scholarships for her and her younger sister at a fancy pants private academy in Pennsylvania. All she has to do is work in the library. If only the SOB headmaster didn’t treat her as his personal slave. Not to mention his obnoxious son, Elliot, always hanging around, asking for obscure books.

Elliot Birch, son of the headmaster, has a good life. Half English and half American, scholarly and handsome, from an old money family, he has everything a kid could want. Except his mother is dying of cancer across the Atlantic, and his father refuses to allow him to visit her. If he steps out of line, Dad will stop paying for her medical bills.

But Elliot’s mother taught him something. Their family is powerful. Talented. With a few herbs, a few magic words, Elliot can change things. Alter things. Bend people to his will. Perhaps cure his mother or escape from his dominating father. But he needs the right books. And they’re hidden somewhere in the library where Tess works.

Hopefully he won’t awaken a slumbering horror trapped in one of those old books.

Drinking Buddy: Sure

Two pints of beer cheersing

Tess and Eliot were good kids. The kind I’d like to have in my own classes: studious, polite, and obedient. On the other hand, when one has to battle the forces of darkness, you might want someone with a little more field experience.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (scary scenes, adult themes)

Eliot and Tess go through the typical YA horror arc: I hate you, we’re going to die, let’s kiss. And, as Eliot is English, we know Tess is going to fall for him. But the romance is kind of a subplot against the background of horror.

The scary parts take a while to get going, but the scenes when the ink-hemorrhaging book demon makes the scene, it’s enough to keep the pages turning.

Talky Talk: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Haunted library, haunted books, haunted boarding school…the elements are there.

But the bad guys are a little over the top, the romance was a bit lacking, and the magic came a bit too quick and a bit too easily. I mean, it took Harry Potter years to even realize he had magical powers, but when we meet Eliot, he’s already casting spells and mixing potions. This sort of thing works in high fantasy, but when you set a story in PITTSBURGH, things like that just seem kind of weird.

Bonus Factor: Library

Close up of the spine of a very old leather book

This book contained more instances of the word ‘grimoire’ than I have seen in anything else I’ve read, and I’m a huge Lovecraft fan.

Grimoire: (n) A book of spells or magic.

Eliot desperately wants to get out of his father’s clutches, but can’t, due to his mother’s illness. But there must be a spell out there that could get him to lay off. And it’s probably somewhere in the basement of the library. He just has to get around that annoying student librarian, Tess.

In this universe, spell books are held in the back rooms of private school libraries. Real books of magic. This library must have fifty of them. No, true books of magic aren’t in the card catalogue. They’re all in the hands of private collectors, scattered in estate sales after their owners went mad, went missing, or took their own lives. You don’t find books like these. They find you. The ease at which Eliot procures these things made me wonder why not everyone in the world can cast spells.

Anti-bonus Factor: Awful Grown-Ups

Boxtrolls characters

Eliot’s headmaster father started sleeping with an underling around the time his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He then dumped his wife to be with his mistress.

After that, he started to get nasty.

When he realized Eliot was up to his mother’s witchcraft, he drug him back to the states, abandoning his mother during her sickness. He forces Eliot to dine with him and his new wife. He beats his son.

I’m sure it was almost a relief for Eliot to have to deal with zombies and monsters.

Bromance Status: Study Buddies

I’m not sure I’d trust you in the field, but I’d like you on my side during the pre-terror, pre-insanity part of the horror story.

Literary Matchmaking


Another book about things man wasn’t meant to read.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. Actually, two free copies, I think some wires got crossed somewhere. No money.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.