It’s a real pleasure to review DEVIL’S POCKET by John Dixon. Proud of the disclaimer for this review, which is that John’s a friend of mine and somebody I admire a great deal personally.
The novel is the sequel to PHOENIX ISLAND, which won John a Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. In that novel, Carl Freeman, an orphan teen who’s always getting into fights to stomp bullies, is given an option by a judge: go to jail, or go to a rehabilitation camp called Phoenix Island, a boot camp for troubled youths. Carl arrives on the remote tropical island to discover it’s far more than what he was led to believe. Phoenix Island is a brutal Darwinist hell in which only the strong survive to be trained as mercenaries. Soon, Carl is forced to fight for himself and his friends or die trying.
In DEVIL’S POCKET, Carl has survived his rebellion and is now playing along as the camp commander’s protege, his strength and senses boosted by the implantation of an experimental chip that makes him virtually invincible. Commander Stark sends him as part of a team to participate in the Funeral Games, a secret no-holds-barred fighting competition with massive stakes. There, Carl will struggle with his chip’s impulses, rediscover lost friends, and struggle against the true power behind Phoenix Island.
PHOENIX ISLAND impressed me with its pacing. You could tell John was once a boxer, as his style of writing has a jab-jab-jab-punch rhythm that keeps you reading. In DEVIL’S POCKET, John offers the same easy-to-read, page-turning style while demonstrating more confidence and maturity as a writer. He offers all the elements one expects from a winning thriller but without the predictability.
Looking forward to the next installment in the series.