Nominated for Debut Novel & Last Laugh Awards at CrimeFest 2022
Shaking Hands With The Devil
'WE ARE ON THIS CASE LIKE A BONER FIDO BLOODHOUND ... AND MY MEN ARE BARKING AT THE LEASH'
Previously considered ahead of its time, the moment has now arrived for this outrageous black comedy set in 1989
What happens when a serial killer and a hapless detective start to get on each other’s nerves?
Over 30 years since the first draft, this hilarious black comedy can at last be read.
Clifton Gentle is an apparently ordinary man without very much to distinguish him. Not much, that is, apart from being a serial killer leaving bits of young men scattered over North London.
Dave Hicks is the flawed, verbally clumsy detective determined to catch him, but his attempts to capture the man he calls ‘the nutter’ through a combination of hunches, sheer optimism and personal abuse do not go well. All that turns up are yet more body parts.
In a London dogged by growing sleaze during an IRA bombing campaign, the gruesome murders spur a crazily over-the-top media and merchandising frenzy.
An increasingly personal feud ends up in a race against time as murderer, detective, a would-be victim, and a deranged copycat killer each try to find out what – or who – they blame for their predicament.
A superb dark comedy thriller set in seedy 1980s London
This is a wonderful and very well written romp through seedy 1980s London, full of daft and dark humour with wit a plenty and very evocative of the time. I appreciated the irony of the naming of the three new cadets – Oldfield, Abbeline and Slipper – all men who failed to get their man, and the various characters in the story all bearing serial killer surnames. I loved Dave’s misquotes, eg “grasp the balls by the horn” (think DelBoy from OFAH) and his complete lack of tact and diplomacy. It’s definitely more Sweeney than PC! Some of Clifton’s thoughts are quite deep. Dave’s are most definitely not! Unless they involve Mum’s home cooking, of course. The ending was superb and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish!
Alyson R, Amazon Reviewer 5*
I couldn’t put it down
A book that I would say is a black comedy crime thriller, and I loved every word. The story takes place in the days that heralded the end of Margaret Thatcher. We meet two serial killers and a copper. D.C.I Dave Hicks is the one tasked with discovering who is leaving body parts around and about. Clifton Gentle is the serial killer in question, and unknown to Hicks there is a copycat too.
A unique, humorous, and dark take on a serial killer story with twists that just keep going. I spent the majority of time either sniggering, smiling, or just laughing.
Shaking Hands With The Devil is a truly different book in that I was cheering the killer on! I willed him to get away so many times that it’s funny for that on its own. The little details of the era added an authenticity to the setting with the IRA threats and even the Margaret Thatcher reign with John Major popping his head up, too. I felt like Bryan.J.Mason had taken me back to my childhood years of the 80s.
I thoroughly enjoyed this comedy of errors that entertained me for a day and would say that if you love crime with a funny (albeit dark) side give this book a go, I bet you read it in no more than 3 sittings, I know I couldn’t put it down anyway. – Sharon Rimmelzwaan
Had me sniggering a lot and laughing out loud at times
How to categorise this book? I’m going with a dark comedy thriller. The story takes place in sleazy London in the dying days of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and is set around the gay clubs and bars. Featuring two seemingly ordinary men who turn out to be serial killers (Clifton Gentle and a copycat) and the bumptious DCI Dave Hicks. Hicks is probably the most unlikely and unlikeable detective you are likely to come across – egotistical, loves his Mums cooking and a master of unwitting spoonerisms.
Briefly, When body parts keep turning up Hicks is allocated the job of finding the killer. What he doesn’t realise is that he is looking for two men, the original killer and a copycat. He attempts to solve the case by using hilarious press conferences whilst invoking the spirits of the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
It is told in the first person by Hicks and the two killers and whilst explicit about the gay scene does not dwell on the actual killings and disposal of the body parts. This is a delightful and often funny book which had me sniggering a lot and laughing out loud at times, despite the very dark and gory scenes. Definitely worth a read – Lynda Checkley
A truly unique read
‘The arm slowly came away from the body with a sucking sound ‘ – this is the first sentence in the book.
I have to say I was a little scared to continue but I did. This story was told from two different POV a serial killers and a police detective We have Clifton Gentle the serial killer and Dave Hicks a detective who is way out of his expertise. The author did a good job in writing a story about a serial killer of course you expect gore but putting in dark humour it was a truly unique read. – Enjoying Books Again
Dark, but funny and a real page turner
I read some odd books at times, and this is right up there with them. However I find that odd usually lead to a really cracking read which is absolutely the case here.
Clifton Gentle is anything but. A serial killer, active for years, discarding body parts all over London, is suddenly under pressure, as DCI Hicks is on the case!
Hicks is an odious creature. Self aggrandising, arrogant, fat, loud, oblivious, and dumb as anything. He is full of malaproprisms. Not helped by his ridiculous mother!
This is full of dark humour and some very clever naming, which I won’t spoil by pointing out,but thought was a great little touch by the author.
It was a case where I hoped the killer would escape, at all times I hoped he’d escape justice. A very unusual turn of events for someone who chops up bodies!
There are lots of little asides that move action and characters along with seamless perfection.
The descriptions of 1980s London, the heat, steaming, dirty streets,IRA bomb threats, Thatcher and John Major all added to the atmosphere. A really cracking read that I have enjoyed every single page of. 5* – Donna Morfett
A must for those who like their satire as black as night
Bryan J Mason’s novel, Shaking Hands With The Devil, will not be for everyone. There are jokes and themes in here which, as they say, push boundaries, so if you are someone who takes offence at words on a page, then I think it’s probably ‘Goodnight Vienna‘. For those made of sterner stuff, here’s the story.
We are in late 1980s London – the autumnal years of Thatcher’s Britain – beset by endless assaults by the IRA. A predatory killer called Clifton Gentle – think Denis Nilsen – is enticing young (men) to come back to his home, (where) he kills them and chops them up into pieces. Sometimes the pieces stay in his flat, but when they become too noxious, he leaves them spread about the capital, in skips, under bushes or in Biffa bins.
On his trail is a grotesque cartoon of a copper – DCI Dave Hicks. He lives at home with his dear old mum, has a prodigious appetite for her home-cooked food, is something of a media whore (he does love his press conferences) and has a shaky grasp of English usage, mangling idioms like a 1980s version of Mrs Malaprop.
The other gags come thick and fast. We have three new police cadets – Oldfield, Abberline and Slipper – working on the case (Google if you’re not sure}, while the editor of The Herald Review (one of the newspapers covering the case) is a certain Mr Charles Manson.
Mason’s final audacious name-check is when he reveals that there is a second killer on the loose, a young man who has won all the glittering prizes, but has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Peter Kurten is determined to make the most of his final six months by a bit of casual ‘triple D’ – Date, Death, Dismember. A confession. Suspecting that this was another joke, I Googled the name (so you don’t have to) and found that Peter Kurten a.k.aThe Vampire of Düsseldorfwas a notorious German serial killer who went to the guillotine on 2nd July 1931.
Bryan J Mason has written a dystopian novel which is, in turn, ghastly, eyebrow-raising and hilarious, but is also a must for those who like their satire as black as night – Fully Booked 20107 https://fullybooked2017.com/2022/03/08/shaking-hands-with-the-devil-between-the-covers/?fbclid=IwAR1U-pWwkxYErqnpdaP3o7_s0usejud5FWOqOhLPEblRCPUdFY9mkW7M50w
Mason is definitely an author to appreciate, as he gives a lot of respect to his craft
This was a hugely unique book! It gave me reminders of the Sweetpea series by CJ Skuse (which I love), with it’s dark but humourous take on a serial killer.
This was a great debut. The differing POV’s of the serial killer and the police detective who is investigating him kept the novel interesting and gripping throughout, and the humour was light enough to lift the story from what is a very dark plot!
Clifton Gentle (amazing name btw) and Dave Hicks’ characters have been greatly researched, and Mason is definitely an author to appreciate, as he gives a lot of respect to his craft. – Curling up with a coffee and a Kindle
This is a very unique book!
I knew I’d love this book after the first few pages. Full of wit and dry humour and fascinating descriptions of the macabre, this is a very unique book!
Poor old Dave is trying to catch a killer – inaptly named Clifton Gentle – but it isn’t an easy task. I loved the contrast between the law enforcer and the law breaker (putting it mildly) and the entertaining game of cat and mouse.
I’d love to read more of Bryan’s work and if you’re looking for something different that will leave you entertained and bursting with laughter, read this! – Murder Jo Wrote
The humour and wit that was combined throughout this read was just incredible.
The author immediately showed me that he has a way with words. I was so taken aback at how this author created something so immensely disturbing to something that was completely dark and comical. For the plot of the story being centred around a serial killer the humour and wit that was combined throughout this read was just incredible.
The characters are unique and you can’t decide if you love them or hate them. What I found incredibly interesting was that Hicks was a bit of a moron for a DCIi but one that was perfectly fitting to try and track down what was going on it the depths of London. I suppose what additionally stood out with this one was it got the public and journalists involved in a way with conferences that were held. Usually in these sorts of reads you find that it’s the DCI and the ‘murderers’ so this was different to me. I loved the way the writing flickered between the different perspectives and the way the book was split up into parts.
I did enjoy that I felt I was there in the 80s reliving some of my earliest memories or memories I remember my parents moaning about as such. It’s a really fast enjoyable paced read if you love a bit of gore and the thrill of the chase. The author really creates two worlds of light heard dark humour of those two even go hand in hand and quite serious gory crime elements. This was the perfect Sunday read for me and I enjoyed my partner and my kids glaring at me with every moment I laughed out loud. – Twilight Reader
Superb dark comedy thriller set in seedy 1980s London full of humour and wit. Loved it!!
This is a superb dark comedy thriller set in seedy 1980s London brimming with larger than life characters and full of humour and wit. Loved it!!
Full review on https://facebook.com/TheWordIsNowOut
Clifton Gentle is a civil servant living in North London. Everything about him, even his socks and underwear, is grey. But on the morning we are introduced to him, he does have something rather extraordinary waiting for him in his bath. DCI Dave “Hicks of Hackney” has a high clear up rate in his particularly villainous part of North London due to the extensive repertoire and prowess of his team in extracting a confession. He’s a big lump of lard of a man, still being looked after by his doting old mum. He is not impressed that someone is leaving body parts from his victims all over his manor. Rude! The present count is at least six partial bodies in the freezer. If he can be the man to bring this killer to justice, his fame will know no bounds. Just like his heroes – Holmes, Poirot et al. Clifton was fine whilst he was able to barbeque bodies in the garden but a house move has forced a different method of disposal. The story details how he first got started on his killing spree and there are initial similarities to serial killer Dennis Nilsen, from his first connection with death seeing his grandfather’s corpse to his surprise at finding a dead body in his bed. Now Clifton is well into double figures and is incensed when he hears what Dave is calling him on the tv. He taunts the police and a game of cat and mouse ensues, with the gauntlet being firmly laid down. Unfortunately there are factors that neither Dave nor Clifton can foresee – so just who will get their man?
This is a wonderful and very well written romp through seedy 1980s London, full of daft and dark humour with wit a plenty and very evocative of the time. I appreciated the irony of the naming of the three new cadets – Oldfield, Abbeline and Slipper – all men who failed to get their man, and the various characters in the story all bearing serial killer surnames. I loved Dave’s misquotes, eg “grasp the balls by the horn” (think DelBoy from OFAH) and his complete lack of tact and diplomacy. It’s definitely more sweeney than pc! Some of Clifton’s thoughts are quite deep. Dave’s are most definitely not! Unless they involve Mum’s home cookin g, of course. The ending was superb and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish! 5* AlyssonRead999
Probably the most unique book I’ve read in 2022
Shaking Hands with the Devil by Bryan J Mason is probably the most unique book I’ve read in 2022. I did read this book over the span of a couple of days, but that’s only because I fell asleep late into the night. I didn’t want to put this down!
I’m obsessed with the writing. There is a ton of wit and intriguing writing that really kept me engaged. There’s a healthy mix of comedy and thrills that gives a unique read.
The plot is compelling and heads down a path I wasn’t expecting. I loved the surprises and this is one of the many reasons I had trouble putting this down. This is easily a five star read for me and I highly recommend giving it a shot! JessicaXBelmont -★★★★★
This book is at times gruesome and at times hilarious
Two men, like chalk and cheese, and the only thing in common is the body parts that keep turning up around London. Because one of these men is a serial killer and the other is the police officer on his trail.
Clifford Gentle is a quiet man who lives alone and works in a mundane job. Little do his workmates know that he is the serial killer or ‘Cereal Killer’ as he becomes known (the book will explain), responsible for almost twenty murders and dismemberments.
Larger than life police officer DCI Dave Hicks is determined to catch ‘the nutter’ as he calls him. A huge man with a large beard, Hicks lives across the road from his mum, who still does all his cooking and cleaning. He loves his mum, almost as much as she loves him. She dotes on him and feeds him massive, unhealthy meals every day, which no doubt partly account for him being larger than life. Hicks also has a way with words, or probably doesn’t: ‘Everything fits in with my previous proboscis,’ he tells the press upon discovery of yet another body.
This book is at times gruesome and at times hilarious. It has all the makings of a great detective novel, plus Dave’s ridiculous spoonerisms, his ineptitude, very-un-PC banter from his co-workers and a philosophical killer. Because Clifford Gentle struggles with his life, his sexuality and frequently his motives. What he really needs is a hobby – other than chopping up his hapless victims.
You need to be prepared to be offended, disgusted and broad-minded in equal measures to enjoy this book (the humour made me wince at times), but this was written in the eighties about life in the eighties at the end of Thatcher’s government. And the ending is worth waiting for as the initial horror has smatterings of a farce, but you’ll have to wait till you get there to find out. – Veronika Jordan – Bookchatter 2021
Mixture of noir and slapstick
This black – and bleakly funny – novel. The killer and DCI Hicks are on a collision course that Mason turns into a strange mixture of noir and slapstick,
A thriller with a great twist
The wit of this writer is visible on every page…the drama and the build up of action makes this book a great read. This is the first I’ve read by Bryan J Mason but I know it certainly won’t be the last.
Kirasmam – Donna’s interviews and reviews
It’s hilarious. Full of black humour
A great read; pacy & written with marvelous wit despite the subject matter…I can’t wait for the next. Recommended.
Deb Day – Deb’s Book Reviews
The best of black comedy – 5* Amazon reviewer
A great read – finely balanced humour and high drama with great characterisations and wonderful language. I couldn’t put this book down and it never disappointed
Unusual – for all of the right reasons – Bobs and Books reviewer 5*
Clifton Gentle. I think this is quite possibly THE best serial killer name I’ve ever heard.
Some truly brilliant laugh out loud moments in this and its incredibly quick witted and humorous…High in drama, and liked the 80s time period.
One that’ll keep you on your toes until the final line.
‘A satirical tale from a master wit at his quirky, provocative best’
If you enjoy your serial killer novels with a healthy dose of dark comedy, Shaking Hands with the Devil by Bryan J. Mason is the book for you. I very much enjoyed this book. There’s a definite sense of wit and lightness in it, but it reminds us that our impressions of people may not always be correct, that people’s personalities come in various shades of grey and can often surprise us…
What I liked most about Shaking Hands with the Devil was the same thing I like about the movie Dumb and Dumber. While I rarely like slapstick comedy, in the film, the two imbecilic best friends in the film are so relentlessly stupid that it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. In this novel, instead of two imbecilic best friends, we have Clifton Gentle and Dave Hicks, two quirky men who in their own rights are so relentlessly half-witted that it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. The deeper into the book we go, the more absurdly cerebrally challenged they reveal themselves to be.
Best of Black Comedy – Amazon 5* Reviewer Carolyn
A great read – finely balanced humour and high drama with great characterisations and wonderful language. I couldn’t put this book down and it never disappointed.
Very humorous – 5* Amazon Reviewer
The wit is excellent the settings equally as good – Tregolls Lodge Book Club
Raskalnikov meets Ignatius J Reilly – 5* Amazon review
A stonking laugh out loud page-turner from a writing talent which has been hidden for far too long. Horribly plausible characterisations set in a time and place so realistically drawn that those of us who were there could almost see, hear and smell the streets of 1980s London.
5* Not my usual kind of read, but I’m so glad that I saw it, liked the look and read it.
Bryan J Mason constructs the narrative with a tight control, bringing the various characters right where he wants them and not before he wants them there. The evocation of London at the end of the 1980s struck exactly the right note with me, a North Londoner who hasn’t lived there for many years, while the mentions of the politicians, the IRA bombing campaign, Desert Orchid and the Cheltenham Gold Cup brought back vividly the feel of the times. This is not my usual kind of read, but I’m so glad that I saw it, liked the look and read it. Follow up my leads, as Hicks would say, and read it too.
Comedic and Menacing mwiltshire
5 * Review
I finished this book late last night (four sessions of reading into the early hours suggest I didn’t want to put it down) – I enjoyed the wit and the wordplay, the richness of language and denouement. As a reader I was taken to places I didn’t expect and to an ending I’d not anticipated. The author expertly combines comedy with tiptoeing into the sinister underbelly of society, scratch the veneer etc. A great read.
Complete page turner.
5 * Review. Complete page turner. Brilliant offering by this first time reviewer, had me hooked from page 1!
Mike Bullen, writer and creator of Cold Feet
“A twisted and twisting tale…Few authors can pull off darkly comic detective fiction like Carl Hiaasen, But Bryan J Mason is one…A great read”
Bryan J Mason
Bryan J Mason wrote this novel in London in the late 1980s, but reluctantly put it away in a drawer after his agent narrowly failed to get it published. He dug it out every ten years or so and each time he did was surprised to find that he enjoyed reading it and still found it funny. At last, he decided to try and get it published, after making some changes, including firmly placing the action in the late ʼ80s and early ʼ90s for today’s reader.
He has worked as a brush salesman and rent collector, made sound effects for BBC Radio and been a tax inspector and occasional actor. He writes regular theatre reviews for StageTalk Magazine and Bristol 24/7. His theatre reviews are available here: https://stagetalkmagazine.com/p/author/masonbryan01gmail-com
Shaking Hands with the Devil is Bryan’s first novel. He is currently finalising one featuring a Jewish detective investigating a series of serial killings in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, called An old Tin Can.
He lives in Bristol with his wife and has two children in their twenties
Launch and Media updates
Thanks to everyone who contributed to my Book Tour 8 – 14 March hosted by the wonderful Zooloos Book Tours: See here
Launch events took place in BookHaus, Bristol and the Clifton Village branch of Waterstones in Nov 21
Thanks also to Donna Morfett for a fab chat with Little Miss Morfett available on Audible and BBC Radio Bristol’s Steve Yabsley for a great interview.
Staff recommendation in my local Waterstones!