Daria Polatin Excerpt: Devil in Ohio

The Devil in Ohio by Daria Polatin is a debut novel and a haunting thriller that explores the dark nature of cults and teen social dynamics.

Read an exclusive excerpt from Devil in Ohio by Daria Polatin, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of her haunting debut!

When fifteen-year-old Jules Mathis comes home from school to find a strange girl sitting in her kitchen, her psychiatrist mother reveals that Mae is one of her patients at the hospital and will be staying with their family for a few days. But soon Mae is wearing Jules’s clothes, sleeping in her bedroom, edging her out of her position on the school paper, and flirting with Jules’s crush. And Mae has no intention of leaving.

Then things get weird.

Jules walks in on a half-dressed Mae, startled to see: a pentagram carved into Mae’s back. Jules pieces together clues and discovers that Mae is a survivor of the strange cult that’s embedded in a nearby town. And the cult will stop at nothing to get Mae back.

Chapter 4

DR. MATHIS: Testing, testing. Is this recording? I pressed the red dot. . . . Okay, looks like it’s working.

[Creaking of bedsprings.]

DR. MATHIS: Oh, you don’t have to get up, you can stay where you are. You had a long night.

[Shuffling of some papers.]

DR. MATHIS: So, I am Dr. Suzanne Mathis, attending psychiatrist at Remingham Regional Hospital, and I’m here to assess how you are doing. I am here with patient—

[No answer.]

DR. MATHIS: Would you mind telling me who you are? We don’t have any identification on file for you yet.

[No answer.]

DR. MATHIS: Your name? Or do you have some kind of ID that the staff might have overlooked?

[Leaning close] Please note that the patient has shaken her head, indicating that she has no ID.

That’s okay. Why don’t you have some water?

[After a short silence, a cup clinks.]

DR. MATHIS: I know you’ve been through something unspeakable. Something you never want to face again, let alone talk about. But I want you to know that I’m here to help you. That is my entire job. To help you work through what happened.

They’re calling you “Lauren Trauma.” That’s your code name in your file. We use it for your own protection, so that only people we give it to can find you. But can I tell you a secret? The ones who we never find out their real name—they’re forgotten, they’re the ones left behind. And we’re not going to let that happen to you.

[A tired, raspy teenage girl’s voice finally speaks.]

MAE: Mae. My name.

DR. MATHIS: Thank you for telling me, Mae. That’s a beautiful name. Do you spell it with a Y?


DR. MATHIS: Wonderful. And your last name?

[No answer.]

DR. MATHIS: Okay. We’ll stick with Mae for now.

So Mae, tell me what you remember from last night. Besides the doctors and tests and all that. Tell me about what happened before you get here.

MAE: I—don’t remember anything.

DR. MATHIS: Nothing at all?

MAE: I remember—the truck driver. He found me. There were bright lights, and then he called the ambulance. I think.

DR. MATHIS: Thank you, that’s what I have here as well. He called the ambulance at 12:52 a.m. It is pretty incredible that he saw you. Police said you were lying nearly fifteen feet from the side of the highway. How did you land so far from the road?

MAE: I don’t know.

DR. MATHIS: Did you jump out of a moving vehicle? Or head into the woods from the road? Or did you maybe come from inside the woods?

MAE: I was in a car. Van. A white one.

DR. MATHIS: Okay, so you were riding in a van. In the passenger seat?

MAE: In the back. I was thrown from there.

DR. MATHIS: You were thrown from a moving vehicle?

MAE: Yes.

DR. MATHIS: By thrown, do you mean that the van hit a bump or something, or it got a flat tire?

MAE: No, by a person.

DR. MATHIS: You were thrown by a person out of the back of a van.

MAE: Maybe that’s why I rolled so far.

[Quiet. Some scribbling.]

MAE: It was two people.

DR. MATHIS: Two people threw you?

MAE: And someone else was driving.

DR. MATHIS: Do you know who threw you?

Do you remember who was driving the van? Or what he—or she—looked like?

MAE: I don’t remember. I’m very tired—

DR. MATHIS: Of course you are. Just a little bit longer. Do you remember anything about them? Any of the people involved? Were they tall, short, thin, heavy?

MAE: They were wearing black.

DR. MATHIS: Black sweaters? Jackets? Pants?

MAE: Long black coats. 

DR. MATHIS: And what about their faces? Could you see what any of them looked like? Do you remember what color anyone’s hair was? Or—

MAE: They were wearing hoods?

DR. MATHIS: Hoods?

MAE: Black hoods.


DR. MATHIS: Mae, where are you from?

MAE: From?

DR. MATHIS: Are you from Ohio? [Leaning in] Note that the patient has nodded affirmative. Where in Ohio are you from? Somewhere nearby?

[Quiet. A sip of water is gulped.]

DR. MATHIS: Mae, I’m going to help you. I’m going to help you stay safe, and help keep you away from whoever did this to you. It won’t be easy, but we’re going to have to trust each other. Can you do that? Can you trust me?

MAE: [Pause.] Okay.

DR. MATHIS: Good, thank you. I’ll trust you too. Okay, this next part might be difficult, but we’re going to get through it. Together. Mae, who did this to you? The carving on your back. Who cut you? Was it someone you knew?

[Leaning close] Please note that the patient is nodding her head yes. Can you tell me who it was? The more I know, the more I can help you. Was it someone from your family?

You’re nodding yes.

MAE: Mmm-hmm.

DR. MATHIS: Was it your—father?

[No answer.]

DR. MATHIS: Mae, most abuse happens from within the family. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, because none of it is your fault. Do you understand that? None of it is your fault.

Was it your dad, or an uncle?

MAE: Yes.

DR. MATHIS: Which one was it?

[After a long pause.]

MAE: Both.


MAE: I need to rest now—

DR. MATHIS: Are you sure you don’t want to tell me—

MAE: I’m so tired.

DR. MATHIS: [Leaning into the microphone] Note that the patient has closed her eyes and is no longer responsive.

Copyright © 2017 Daria Polatin.

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Devil in Ohio Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/stories/2017/11/daria-polatin-excerpt-devil-in-ohio-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 7, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 9:59 a.m. ET November 21, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Daria Polatin is an award-winning playwright and television writer. She holds an MFA from Columbia University, and her new play Palmyra, about a young woman who joins ISIS, will be presented in New York and Los Angeles. She is a founding member of The Kilroys, an advocacy group for female and trans writers that promotes gender equality in the American theater, and is a writer for the Amazon TV series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski. Daria is of Egyptian heritage and grew up traveling on five continents, loves hiking and inventing recipes, and lives in Los Angeles. Devil in Ohio is her debut novel. dariapolatin.com.


  1. lasvegasnv

    was interesting

  2. Mary Ann Woods

    Love reading about cults and this one sounds great!

  3. pat murphy

    the world we live in ?

  4. Marlana

    Sounds really good. I grew up in Ohio. Sometimes, I miss those days.

  5. Alice

    Creepy! (I love it)

  6. Carolyn

    Sounds interesting!

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    Whoot! Would love to win a copy!

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    Very intriguing!

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    This looks amazing!!!!

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    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

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    Would love to win!

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    I love thrillers, this sounds so good!

  13. Melissa F.

    Sounds interesting!

  14. Kathryn Arevalo

    So far…excellent! I can’t wait to read it!!! Looks good!

  15. Phyllis Bernstein

    Excerpt and summary so intriguing. Wish excerpt was longer. Can’t wait to read this!

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    Captivating. Love this intriguing feature.

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    Excerpt enthralling. Thanks for this giveaway.

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    ok, that sounds crazy cool.

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    Sounds very interesting. Thank you for the chance.

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    Can’t wait to read it.

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  26. Lori P

    Agree that the creepiness factor here is very high! I’m sure this book would keep the reader captive.

  27. beautyandthebookreviews

    This sounds really creepy and fascinating. I love the sound of a cult thriller and I love that the main characters name is Jules. Thanks so much for the chance!

  28. vickie dailey

    great exceprt. sounds like the kind of book I like to read.

  29. John Smith

    Looks a little bit zombie-esque!

  30. SandySL

    I’ve been eyeing this novel for a while now. Would love to read it.

  31. Lorri S

    Another interesting book I would enjoy reading.

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    Oh, this book sounds good. I want it in my library.

  33. Janice

    I’m hooked

  34. Laurent Latulippe

    Reading about cults is fun.

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    Another gotta read book!

  36. Karyn Rexelle

    Sounds interesting and creepy. Right up my alley! Would love to read the whole book

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    Count me in, please!

  38. Polly Barlow

    Is this based on any fact, is there a cult such as this in Ohio? If it all made up, I think I would like to read it.

  39. Susan Morris

    This book looks like a winner! Hope to win a copy. Thanks for the chance.

  40. Jenn

    Looks super creepy, right up my alley!

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    Spooky – would like to read more.


    thanks for chance

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    love to read a good thriller

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    Love a good thriller based in Ohio! 🙂

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    Something different for me

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    I’m gonna read this book somewhere!!

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    Sounds interesting!

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    Wow! Intense excerpt. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of “Devil in Ohio”.

  49. Pat Murphy

    Live in Ohio so I read any mystery with Ohio as a locale.

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    Sounds like a very interesting read.

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    Got me intrigued!

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    I wouldl like this.

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    Looks like an interesting read. My brother and my daughter live in Ohio. Thanks for the opportunity to win

  57. Andrew Gordon

    as an Ohioan, looks good.

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    Adding to my TO READ LIST now!

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    thank you for the chance to win


    Sounds creepy!!

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    This book is mine. (I hope)

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    sure want to win

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  70. Daniel Morrell

    always like a thriller

  71. Sab Edwards

    I’d be seriously interested in this if its more YA then adult lol

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    It’s very intriguing. I would love to read it!

  73. Leslie Mcewan

    sounds good and different

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    Wow, this sounds like a terrific one! I’m completely intrigued already and would love to read more! Going to add this to my want-to-read shelves right now!

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    I’d like to read this one. Please include me in the drawing.

  78. Carla Thompson

    Since I live in Ohio, I like to get books set there, so I’d love to win this.

  79. Christal Mormann

    thank you for the chance

  80. Scott Dickinson

    This looks like a good story!


    Another Winner. I want it.

  82. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of Daria Polatin.

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    This looks like a good read!

  84. Tricha Leary

    sounds like one you wont be able to put down

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    would love this for my winter reading, thanks

  90. Stephanie Liske

    Thank you.

  91. Buddy Garrett

    It sounds chilling.

  92. Terry Hodges

    This book sounds very interesting and would love to read it!!

  93. Carl White

    [b]Jules walks in on a half-dressed Mae, startled to see: a pentagram carved into Mae’s back…sounds like a typical first date for me.[/b]

  94. Fredrick Pauly

    sounds good.

  95. Fredrick Pauly

    sounds good.

  96. Brenda

    Can’t wait to read…would love a copy!

  97. helen martin

    She sounds like she was traumatized.

  98. Philip Lawrence

    I always thought the Devil was in Ohio!

  99. Janice Milliken


  100. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Cult me! Yes!

  101. Beverly Steuver

    Sounds like this would be a good book to read!

  102. Beverly Steuver

    Sounds like this would be a good book to read!

  103. Douglas Feehan

    Awesome book!!!

Comments are closed.