When Gabino Iglesias was laid off from his job as an Austin schoolteacher two years ago, he was already writing his third novel, The Devil Takes You Home (Little, Brown and Company / Mulholland Books, August 2). But that experience of precarity—all too common in our loser-take-none economy—only intensified the stakes of this very effective horror story. Mario, the book’s protagonist, is an Austin family man who loses his job, and then his four-year-old daughter to leukemia. He finds himself broke and infuriated with a health-care system that couldn’t save his child but is expert at dogging him to make good on tens of thousands of dollars in accumulated medical debt. Desperate for money, he begins a long slide into criminality and an occult world of Mexican cartels, powerful brujas, and disemboweled zombies.
The book is, frankly, too much, filled with an excess of gory scenes and not enough moments of heightened suspense in between. And Iglesias’s overbaked metaphors and similes (“Guilt had exploded in my chest like the punch of an angry god”) are clunky enough to occasionally break the spell of the story’s gnawing sense of hopelessness. But make no mistake: the conviction that our world is irredeemable is powerfully rendered here. It’s present in an utterly harrowing set piece that takes place in a shotgun shack in San Antonio, in the pitch-perfect plot twist at the end of the book, and, most viscerally of all, in Mario’s rage against the racism that has disfigured his life—an anger that couldn’t feel more of the moment if it
donned a “Brown Lives Matter” T-shirt.
This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Gabino Iglesias Has Written a Very Creepy Horror Novel That’s All About Right Now.” Subscribe today.