Working the Devil by John Hagar is a caustic novel about one man’s attempt to bring peace and justice to an indigenous community on a small island called Infierno in the Caribbean. “Infierno” is right (“Hell” in Spanish) as the island is teeming with violence, racism, and a sadistic prison named the Sepulcher. After escaping the island during extreme unrest, Pike returns to the community with an eye on repairing a multitude problems. He has to contend with corruption from above and below: both oil corporations and the society’s own history of ingrained brutality.
All in all, Working the Devil is not a very favorable look at the human condition, as corruption and mistreatment are so rampant, but what makes it effective, and profound, is that it is an accurate take on the state of the world on a macro and micro level, and how difficult it is to make things better. That may make for a dispiriting read, but in Hagar’s assured hands, it does not because his prose is crystal clear and his observations are incisive. So it’s a difficult read, but an important one. Yet at the same time, Working the Devil never loses its sense of humor, making it a multi-layered and fascinating novel that rewards the reader from many different angles.