Book Review-The Devil’s Paintbox

I have to admit something. I had been waiting for this book for quite some time. Having read snippets of it a while back, I knew it was going to be good, and I wanted to hold it in my hand. I have nothing against e-books, but when you find a good book you want to be able to hold it in your hand. That’s the kind of story lover I am. And that is the kind of book this is.

Let me tell you the kind of reader I am. I read several books at the same time. On average I am reading 4 or 5 books that I have stashed in my book bag that I take everywhere I go. What? You don’t have a book bag? What’s wrong with you? Go get one. Do it now. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

As I was saying, I read a few books at a time. I have always been like that. It is a rare thing when a book makes me hold on to it throughout. It’s only happened a couple of times, and one of those times is Robert Allen’s The Devil’s Paintbox. 


Robert’s storytelling voice is perfection. He put me right in the middle of this harrowing tale of drug dealing and murder in such a way that I found myself involuntarily dodging bullets as I read.  I had a little bit of trouble not believing that maybe the author was much more intimate with the story than I’d like to believe. His writing was filled with such description and understanding of the main character’s movements and motives that I was thinking to myself there is no way this author simply researched these things and wrote a book. He had to have seen some of it. He had to have been there.

Robert Allen’s accounts of life in Key West and Chicago are extraordinary. I have never been to either place, yet now I feel I have tasted them. I feel I have stood there shoulder to shoulder with natives and tourists alike as they watch the warm sunset go down on Key West, and I have felt the chilly gusts of wind on my face as I maneuver the streets of Chicago with a thirsty vengeance for blood. That is the power in the narrative voice in Robert Allen’s new book.

In this story he takes you along for the ride with Key West drug smuggler Stephen Dean as the character makes one of the biggest deals of his life, and one that just might cost him everything that he has ever loved. You get to follow along as Stephen and those close to him try to find their way out of a maze of madness that Stephen’s chosen profession has cost them.

In the midst of all the violence and mayhem Robert Allen finds the time and talent to tell you a love story.  Yeah, a love story. In the end, this is what this book is really about. A man and woman in love, and the toll their choices take on their lives. A life full of twists and turns and good roads not taken. A life that culminates in one last chance at redemption. How will it end?

I am not going to tell you how it ends, who lives and who dies, but I will tell that I (a former police detective) found myself rooting for the drug dealer and the life he is trying to lead. It’s a compelling story. A story expertly told by a new and upcoming writer. I eagerly await a second book.


I told Robert Allen not long ago that I still think about some of the characters in his book from time to time. I wonder how they are and what they are doing. He did me the favor of not sarcastically responding “You know this is fiction, right?”. Is it? Is it, really?

Yeah Rob, we’ll go with that for now.


Here’s a link to Robert Allen’s author page on Facebook and the link to his book on Amazon. Go check him out. You won’t regret it.

P.S. I probably won’t do it often, but if you have a self-published book you would like me to review for my blog, go ahead and shoot me a message and we’ll work it out. My book bag is always looking for something else to carry. You still don’t have a book carrying bag? Go get one already! Geez.




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