The Devil in Silver - Victor LaValle
When Pepper has an altercation with some NYPD detectives, he figures he’s been arrested and on his way to prison. Instead, Pepper finds himself dumped in the mental ward of New Hyde Hospital, a run down public hospital where he is kept under observation and medication. However New Hyde has another resident aside from the patients and overworked staff; a violent inmate who drops through the ceiling and attacks Pepper in the middle of the night. The staff claims it’s just another patient, but the inmates claim it’s something far worse-the actual Devil.

The Devil in Silver is an uneven, meandering story that sheds light on the plight of those still institutionalized despite innovations in mental health care. The characters and setting are both well-drawn here; it’s easy to picture the decaying New Hyde mental ward and the struggles of both patients and staff. The dehumanizing nature of the place is even emphasized through the use of patient nicknames; most of the characters real names are not revealed until later in the story. Despite this, both patients and staff feel like real people with real issues.

The novel could have used an editor in places; the narration can be choppy in places, with copious sentence fragments. The narrator also addresses the reader directly at times, and often comes across as if he/she will be revealed as a character. This comes off even stranger when such a reveal never comes. There are also a couple of interruptions discussing the tragic cases of some real NYC mental health patients. Although a couple of characters do collect news clippings of such forgotten cases, these chapters read like breaks in the story.

About midway through the novel, the focus switches from dealings with the “Devil” to Pepper’s relationship with another inmate. While still interesting and well written, the Devil plot seems pushed to the side for awhile; it may have been better to weave in this subplot with the Devil story instead.

The good parts definitely outweigh the bad, and the final climax is absolutely excellent. The Devil in Silver is a strange story, but overall a worthwhile read.

A review copy was provided through the Librarything Early Reviewers program.