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Devil's Keep Mass Market Paperback – Mar 30 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (March 30 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439168563
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439168561
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.8 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,107,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


In the cool darkness before a Sunday morning dawn, Marivic Valencia stood beside the coastal road that ran beside Leyte Gulf and waited for the Manila-bound bus that would carry her away from her family. She was eighteen years old, slim and pretty and demure, with long black hair bound in a ponytail behind her head. She used no makeup. She wore denim jeans and a loose T-shirt.

A large duffel, stuffed full, sat in the gravel beside the road. Marivic had never been more than an hour away from home; now she was beginning a journey that would take her to a job thousands of miles away, and she didn’t expect to return for at least a year.

Her family huddled around her. Lorna, her mother, held her tight. The five little ones, arrayed from fourteen to two years old, clung to her. They attached themselves wherever they could find a handhold: one at each elbow, one at a shoulder, the two smallest wrapping their arms around her legs. Her twin brother, Ronnie, stood a couple of steps away, looking perplexed and helpless.

She and Ronnie had always been close. Each understood the other like nobody else. They hardly needed words. Marivic met his eyes and shot him a smile that was supposed to say It’ll be all right, and Ronnie nodded and smiled back weakly.

Now others were appearing, aunts and uncles and cousins wandering over from the small village across the road where she had grown up, the place called San Felipe. They gathered around Marivic and her family, murmuring low, sad words. Marivic felt dampness at her cheek: her mother was weeping. A couple of aunties began to sob too.

Marivic wished the bus would hurry and get there. She wasn’t eager to leave, but she wanted this to end. It felt too much like a funeral, and it was all too familiar.

Departures were a way of life for San Felipe, as for all other small towns and villages in the rural Philippines. People left all the time. They left to find work, to make money. Some headed for Manila. Others, more adventurous and more fortunate, were hired for jobs abroad. At least a dozen of the sons and daughters of the village worked overseas, sending home remittances that sustained their families. Marivic’s father had been one of those. The duffel was his old sea bag.

Until his sudden death two years earlier, he had been a seaman, a chief mate who spent nearly a year at a time on a Norwegian freighter, returning home for only a few weeks before going out to sea again. Each time he left, the family had gathered here beside the road, just like now, weeping and clinging as they waited for the northbound bus.

Marivic could remember each of those departures. Until this moment, she had never realized what an ordeal it must have been for him.

Now twin lights appeared down the road, growing bigger and brighter. A breeze from the south carried up the rumble of a diesel engine. “Here it is,” somebody said, and Lorna wailed.

The bus loomed up, slowed, and chuffed to a stop. The door swung open, and the crowd parted and made a path for Marivic to the open door and the steps beyond. But Marivic couldn’t move. Lorna had tightened her embrace, and the little ones were clinging even harder.

The driver ended it. “We have a long way to go,” he said, in a tone that was stern but not unkind.

Lorna squeezed her once more, kissed her, released her. Marivic kissed each of the younger children, then Ronnie. She picked up the duffel. Her ten-year-old brother, Ernie, was carrying a string sack with bananas and snacks for the long trip ahead. He held it up to her; she took it and climbed up, and the driver shut the door behind her.

She walked about halfway down the aisle, lifted the duffel onto a rack overhead, and dropped down into an open seat. The engine rumbled, the bus pulled away. Marivic got just a glimpse out the window of her family and the others, and then they slid out of view.

She was on her way.

As the bus rolled up the coastal road, with dawn lifting over the gulf to the east, Marivic felt lonely, excited, scared—and very lucky. Manila was just a stopover. After a couple of weeks of processing her passport and paperwork, she was headed abroad to help care for the children of a wealthy Arab family in Dubai. She would be paid the equivalent of eight hundred dollars a month, plus room and board. The Philippines had millions of unemployed college graduates who gladly would have left home and family to earn that kind of money, doing even the most menial labor.

And Marivic didn’t even have a high school diploma. After their father died, she and Ronnie had left school and gone to work. Ronnie harvested copra from coconut trees on the steep mountainside behind the village. Marivic got a job as a waitress at a roadside restaurant near the village. Long hours, hard work, and awful pay didn’t add up to much: in the past year, she had earned the peso equivalent of $750. Now she would be making more than that every month, and sending most of it home to support her family.

It was miraculous.

The opportunity had presented itself when a customer left behind a newspaper at one of her tables. She brought the paper home and read it by the light of the single dim electric bulb that her mother allowed to burn after dark. At the back of the newspaper were ads for overseas employment agencies. One caught her attention: OPTIMO. She liked the name; it sounded bright and cheerful. And she saw that Optimo had a branch office in Tacloban City, the provincial capital, about an hour up the highway.

She went there on her next day off. The address was a shabby three-story office building, a single small room at the top floor. As Marivic entered, she found half a dozen metal chairs along walls with flaked and peeling paint. Five of the chairs were occupied by people filling out forms on clipboards. At the front wall, a plump middle-aged woman sat at a desk. A nameplate on the desk read: REGIONAL MANAGER. She impatiently motioned Marivic inside and gave Marivic a clipboard and a form—BIOGRAPHICAL DATA AND APPLICATION FOR REPRESENTATION, the form said—and Marivic took it to the last empty chair and began to fill it out, balancing the clipboard on her knees.

The air in the room was dense and torpid. An electric fan turned lazily overhead. Marivic wiped her damp forehead with the back of one hand to keep the beads of sweat from dripping onto the form. When she was finished, she brought the clipboard to the desk and stood waiting as the plump woman examined the form. Finally the woman sent her to a clinic on the first floor for a physical exam. A doctor took her medical history, examined her eyes and ears and throat, listened to her heart and lungs, and drew a blood sample. Marivic trudged back up to the top-floor office. The woman curtly told her that the application would be sent to the head office. Whatever happened would come out of Manila.

It didn’t sound encouraging.

Marivic felt foolish as she walked out. What chance did she have? Everybody in the Philippines wanted to work abroad. She had wasted a day off.

Three days later, the Manila office called. They had a job for her, but it had to be filled quickly. Could she be in Manila in two days?

Marivic stammered a yes.

She was instructed to return to the Tacloban office, where the regional manager gave her a reserved-seat bus ticket and one thousand pesos—more than a week’s wages at the restaurant—for incidental expenses. The plump woman told her that an agency employee would meet her at the bus terminal in Manila. While Marivic waited for her passport, she would stay free of charge at the agency’s dormitory.

“Be sure that you’re on that bus,” the woman told her.

Marivic hurried home to pack. The next morning she was headed north, stunned by her good fortune.

The journey to Manila was twenty-two hours, nearly a full day and a night.

Marivic stayed awake through the daylight hours, eagerly taking in the countryside she had never seen before. It included a crossing of a spectacular bridge high above the San Juanico Strait, terrifying but thrilling, and a two-hour passage on a large ferry that carried the bus to a landing at the southern tip of the island of Luzon.

Manila was on Luzon, so the rest of the trip was overland. Something about that thrilled Marivic, knowing that there was no more water between her and the big city. MANILA 670 KM said a road sign at the ferry landing. Marivic pulled her cell phone from the pocket and powered it up. It got a signal, three bars.

This didn’t surprise her. In the past ten years, cell service had proliferated throughout the country, with towers appearing even on remote mountaintops. The Philippines was cell crazy. All but the very poorest owned a phone with a prepaid SIM card. Airtime for conversations was relatively expensive, beyond the budgets of most, but a text message cost only a few centavos. For the price of a scoop of steamed rice at an outdoor food stall, you could send dozens of texts. So Filipinos were now a texting nation, universally adept, able to walk, talk, eat, drive—sometimes even make love—while their thumbs danced on the phones’ numeric pads.

Marivic, seeing the three bars, thought about Ronnie. He had always wanted to make the journey to the big city.

She sent him a text:

manila 670 km

Moments later, the reply flashed back:

lucky u

The bus ground on. Twice more that day, as road signs passed her window, Marivic sent texts to her brother.

manila 512

Ronnie answered:


And just before dark:

manila 402

That got no answer at all. Ronnie was pouting, she thought, and was missing her. She would feel the same in his place.

She slept on and off after nightfall, waking when the bus stopped in towns and small cities. Then after midnight the stops were more frequent, the populated areas bigger and closer together, until finally there was no more countryside, just an endless sprawl of streets and homes and shops and buildings, with Manila glowing in the sky ahead.

She didn’t know exactly when they entered the city. But some of the streets became wider, and there were trucks and cars and taxis waiting at traffic signals—even at 3:30 a.m.!—and she knew they must be close. She turned on the phone and tapped out a quick message to Ronnie:


He would be asleep, but he’d find it first thing in the morning.

The bus terminal was on the south side of the metropolitan area, along a broad boulevard. Most of the passengers seemed to know that they were getting close, because they began to gather their bags. Marivic stood, took down her duffel, and sat with it in her lap.

On impulse, she unzipped it and dug down into the clothes. She brought out a small drawstring bag of red velvet with a braided cinch. She looked around, saw that nobody seemed to be paying attention to her, opened the bag and let the contents fall into her palm.

It was her most treasured possession: a gold herringbone bracelet with a centerpiece of red rubies forming the letter “M,” encircled by a ring of small diamonds. Nothing else she owned was even remotely so expensive, but this wasn’t the real significance. The bracelet was a gift from her father, bought in Brazil for her sixteenth birthday. He had always brought thrilling surprises when he returned from his voyages, but this one was really special. It was a grown-up gift. It had made her feel like a woman.

Marivic had intended to keep the bracelet out of sight in Manila. She had heard stories of robbers who stole gold chains and even rings, ripping them free and then running. But she had also heard of bus station thieves who snatched baggage from the hands of unwary travelers, and she could just as well lose the bracelet that way.

Marivic folded her hand around the bracelet. She thought about her father. She imagined him shopping for it and thinking of her and carrying it halfway around the world to place it on her wrist. Just touching it now made her feel confident and secure, as if it carried some of her father’s strength and love.

She draped the bracelet over her left wrist, and fastened the clasp.

Some of the passengers were standing in the aisle now, impatient. Marivic looked to the front and saw that the bus was pulling into the terminal. It rolled to a stop. The front door huffed open.

Marivic waited until most of the passengers had left. Then she grasped the handle of the bag and stepped out into the aisle. She walked up to the front of the bus and into the thick, pungent air of Manila.

© 2010 Phillip Finch

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I usually buy the vast majority of my book purchases from This time I spotted Devil's Keep in a rack at the Kitsilano London Drugs and bought it on a whim. It's a great fast-paced thriller that has four former spies/commandos taking on a missing persons case in the Philippines, and battling a nasty criminal operation by the Russian mob. If you like novels written by Lee Child, Greg Rucka, David Morrell, Stephen Hunter, and/or Robert Ludlum, you'll really enjoy this book. I recommend it as a light but well written action-adventure tale. I'm looking forward to more Bravo Cell One Nine stories from Phillip Finch.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 52 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Move over Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne, meet Ray Favor April 22 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For those who appreciate excellent writing and storytelling, put this new thriller on your Must Read List for 2010.

Phillip Finch delivers the goods on all levels in this action-thriller. The story moves at a solid pace and does not slow down. Excellent characters and the setting feel so real. The author obviously has his hand on the pulse on the Philippines.

Special Ops master Ray Favor here earns his seat at the same table with the likes of characters Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne. I think the best is yet to come with this new series and look forward to the next installment. Make some room on your bookshelf for Mr. Finch friends. The goods are delivered strong here, and more.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly Realised Characters April 30 2010
By G. Norby - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Suspense lovers! Check out "Devil's Keep" by Phillip Finch. It has international settings, mystery, gun play and all the rest. Where it excels is in the characters. In spite of the protagonists coming from a Black Ops background, they have moral questions that are examined deeply and realistically. The "killer with a conscience" may have been seen in other works, but Finch has a way of bringing these people to life, to show, not just tell, how they came to be,... well, them. You feel you know these people; For the debut of a group of protagonists, they are readily accessible, and definitively human.

The pacing of the book is relentless. Even before you know for certain what is happening to the victims in the plot, you have a sense of foreboding, an unease that drives you forward, page after page. When the truth is confirmed, you understand the tangible evil of the bad guys, how depraved they really are. You wrestle with the moral and ethical struggles the heroes endure, and sweat out the tense times with them. When time comes to "settle the bill", "Devil's Keep" does so definitively, and leaves a very generous tip.

First in a promised series featuring the core group, it has me eager to read more concerning these remarkable people.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devil's Keep.. .Great Read July 14 2010
By G. Martin - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a great read... what was intesting to me, was the setting was in the Phillipenes.. not your usual international thriller setting. It is obvious Mr Finch lived there as his descriptions were clear. The Book was hard to put down and i read it over lunch and into the evening.. much to my wifes irritation.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Evil that men do. Oct. 21 2010
By Robert C. Olson - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Evil that men do.
Wonderful debut novel of a new action packed series. As many of my other action heroes are getting long in the tooth, Mr. Finch's team of former elite black operatives arrives just in time. Devil's Keep is a well reasoned thought-out tale that brings back together an elite group of clandestine black ops operatives in search of missing Filipino teenage youths. Led by chief protagonist Ray Favor, the team uses all its skill and prior training to search and "hunt" down the missing teenagers. What they find is a monstrous evil on a secret island off the southern coast of the Philippines. Mr. Finch does an excellent job of keeping the reader involved without going overboard as so many action writers tend to do today. Plenty of believable action that keeps the story moving at a rapid clip.
No gratuitous sex, language, or violence. Just good writing.
Character development was mediocre at best. Mr. Finch's cast of characters were a target rich environment of possibilities that he never developed to my satisfaction. For this to be a successful series he is going to have to do more in the way of fleshing out the 4 primary characters-especially the main protagonist Ray Favor. I liked the story but there just wasn't enough about just who these elite black ops folks were.
All in all a good series beginning novel. Solid recommend as a paperback. Very good for that long, miserable airline flight. I like Mr. Finch's writing style, not too aggressive or over the top but just about right. Too many action writers today write in the old Saturday matinee style of cliff-hanging action that the protagonist somehow survives. I am looking forward to the next Ray Favor novel.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the next installment April 26 2010
By Tom Billow - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a can't put down book. I picked it up on saturday and finished it on sunday. It leaves you waiting for the next installment. If you are a Lee Child or Vince Flynn fan you will be happy you found Phillip Finch. Pickup this one - you won't be sorry!!