Jake Griffiths' 'She Sups with the Devil'
An incisive but slow-burn exposé of the turpitude of succumbing to the temptations inherent in big business - and the seductive power of material gain in the corporate world.
The title of Jake Griffiths’ She Sups with the Devil alludes to a well-known phrase: ‘He who sups with the devil should use a long spoon’. This roughly translates as a warning to those who choose to consort with persons who are corrupt or morally ambiguous, and that spending too much time with such individuals can serve as a temptation to absorb their questionable ways. In other words, the title seemingly advises that close proximity to evil can have an insidious impact – much like passive smoking.
Pitched as a novel, the implication seems to be that events such as those described in the narrative are all too often a matter of fact – as opposed to fiction – in the everyday world. This cautionary tale opens in Toronto, a major and internationally respected city. But beneath its innocent façade lurks a scrofulous subculture of vice, sleaze and greed. On the first page, the reader is introduced to a key character only by the pronoun ‘she’. This immediately poses the question as to whether this is the same ‘she’ referred to in the title. And does the absence of a name reflect the character’s need to detach herself from her dishonourable dealings? What is not in question, however, is that this is a character in the grip of a dilemma, torn between self-interest and a more righteous choice. And this seems to be the over-arching theme of the novel as a whole: fundamentally decent individuals, having dipped their toes into the realm of wrongdoing, suddenly find themselves thoroughly embroiled in the toxicity of such a world. And escape from such a web is a herculean, if not impossible, task.
Throughout the narrative, Griffiths subtly draws out an impression of the moral complexity of its characters. This is most obviously evinced through the character of Caroline Morton – the ‘she’ of the novel’s opening - who constantly battles within herself, perpetually torn between self-preservation and protecting her love interest and business associate, Alan Dexter. While not exactly the stuff a Shakespearean soliloquy, the emotional angst is competently communicated to the reader. Griffiths calls into question the motivation of those who find themselves in a network of criminality. Is personal gain too simplistic an explanation? Perhaps, like Caroline, there are other factors that drive nefarious behaviour. By associating himself with Caroline, is Dexter too tainted with the stain of criminality?
Ultimately, Griffiths invites us to look beyond surface respectability (think Toronto and Caroline) and remain alert to camouflaged corruption.
A cautionary tale indeed.
Reviewed by Amanda Ellison on Reedsy Discovery: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/she-sups-with-the-devil-jake-griffiths?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=mandrill#review
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