Mark Tufo’s Devil’s Desk – Book Spotlight

Hey, Readers! Welcome back to our Book Spotlight.

So, where I am it’s pretty warm, lately. I wanted to read something that would give me a bit of a chill. And what better location to set a chilling tale than Alaska in winter?

This month’s tale is a book about a couple of families going on vacation to a somewhat luxurious camping spot in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Sounds like a relaxing time, right? S’mores, Irish coffee, sitting around the fire telling spooky stories and huddling together against the chill? Exactly what I need to read about in 100 degree weather here in Southern California. Perfection.,

And then the Yeti attacks.

And it’s not even the scariest thing in this book, believe it or not.

Grab a blanket, some cocoa and get cozy. We’ve got some wilderness to survive.

Book Stats

    Author: Mark Tufo.
    Formats: Kindle, Paperback, CD, and Audiobook.
    Price: $3.99 for Kindle, $13.99 for Paperback, $20.97 on CD, $17.99 for the Audiobook, or one Credit on Audible.
    Length: 324 pages or 9 hours 54 minutes in audio format.
    Narrator: Sean Runnette.
    Number of books in the series:Three works in the Michael Talbot series at the time of writing, though the character Michael Talbot appears throughout a number of other works, it seems. (If anyone is more familiar with this author’s works and wants to put extra/clarifying information in the comments that would be amazing.)

Basic Premise

Mike and BT are neighbors and best friends. Have been for a while. They routinely go on vacation together with their wives (Tracy and Linda.) and the destinations sound fantastic; Vegas, Cruises, that kind of thing. But this latest adventure isn’t exactly something Mike would have picked for them… camping? Nature? No thanks. Mike’s the kind of guy who prefers a plush couch, a stocked mini-fridge and a big screen TV broadcasting a Redsox game.

Still. Everyone except for him seems excited to go, so, he’s kind of stuck with it.

The drive is long, but they finally make it to the park. They aren’t the only people staying at the campground, of course. There’s the perpetually stoned member of park staff who’s much, much more than what he seems. (In so many ways.) A bunch of college kids, another couple who are quite a bit younger than Mike and BT’s group is in a neighboring cabin, and a lovely Italian family headed by a sweet old Grandma is staying in an RV. The first night there becomes something of a mixer, where food and booze both flow like water and everyone seems to have a great time getting to know one another.

Then a massive earthquake chucks most of California, Oregon, Washington, some of Alaska and a teeeeny bit of Canada into the ocean. This doesn’t outright kill our heroes, of course (Because that would be a very short book.) but it DOES strand them in the wilderness with very few options for escape. Ash from erupting volcanoes fills the air and a blizzard whips up and suddenly all the campers have is each other. No cell service, no nearby towns that can be approached for help with this weather and did I mention that the grandson of the nice old Italian lady I mentioned before is a murderer? And a clown? (Can’t decide which is the worse crime if I’m being frank.)

So, natural disasters, appalling weather, a murder-clown. Pretty awful so far, right?

To quote my own preamble: Then the Yeti attacks.

Actually, there’s more than one. Shaken down out of the mountains, these surly simians are hungry. Human flesh is about as good as any other kind so far as these creatures are concerned and so our valiant group of campers make it on the menu.

These close cousins of ours are not only huge, strong and vicious, but smart, too. Will Mike, BT and everyone else make it out to what remains of civilization before becoming snacks? Hard to say! You’d better read to find out.

My Take

This book was a pleasant surprise. Reading the synopsis before downloading it, I was a bit skeptical that all the aforementioned elements could knit together into a good story. It all seemed like… just. A lot. Yetis, murder-clowns, The Big One… but there’s one thing that takes all these seemingly disparate elements and ties them together neatly; the characters.

Mike and BT have an amazing friendship. They give one another a hard time non-stop and it’s hilarious to read, but it all comes from a place of love and trust. You get the impression that these are the kind of guys where if they aren’t busting your balls at least a little bit, they probably actively dislike you. I don’t want to spoil too much about them as characters because you deserve to ‘meet’ them on your own terms, but I found myself liking them right off the bat.

Tim, the murderer, is also a great character. The idea of a guy who’s living is made making balloon animals for unruly children at parties, stalking a man cross-country to kill him for abusing his, Tim’s, female cousin is an odd one. But then, the guy walks around barefoot in the snow wearing Pikachu boxers and an old bathrobe like he’s the king of the campground and you just kind of hope he gets away with it. He’s the worst kind of person in many ways, but you can’t help but enjoy his antics. (In a fictional setting. I wouldn’t want to meet him in real life.)

The Yetis are monstrous, but not un-killable and I appreciated that. They provide a great level of threat without being something that the characters could in no way overcome. They have strength as well as numbers and that’s what backs our protagonists into a corner, but there are ways around them and the characters in the story find those methods that work best. The thing I like about them the most is that they force the human characters to be pro-active about finding solutions. The ones who don’t or can’t… well. It doesn’t end well for them.

Mark Tufo is a pretty prolific writer and I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of his work. This book is part of a series featuring Mike Talbot, but my understanding is that they’re all unconnected stories that take place in alternate timelines and not in chronological order. That’s a super interesting, honestly pretty original concept!

The narrator for the audio version is really good. Sean Runnette has a great voice that’s pleasant to listen to. Super enjoyable. In fact, I snagged another story read by him right after finishing Devil’s Desk and am looking forward to getting into that one soon.

All in all, this book is highly recommended – especially if you’re looking to be transported to somewhere a little cooler!

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