On the strength of The Last Witness, I was ready to pick this up as soon as it came out; I really enjoyed pretty much every aspect of Parker’s other Tor.com novella, and definitely wanted to read more from him. The Devil You Know is significantly weaker, though; apparently, one of the main characters is from another book by Parker, Blue and Gold. I think knowing that, I’d have picked up Blue and Gold first, because while the background is easy enough to grasp in this book, it might’ve helped in understanding the character and what he wants.
The plot itself is basically Faustian, with one of the main characters (a philosopher) trying to trick the other (a devil, but in a bureaucratic delegation sort of way: he doesn’t have pointy horns and an evil nature) out of the whole selling-your-soul bargain. I thought the final solution to that was a bit obvious, both as a device in general and in the way it was executed here, and the devil surprisingly careless about that one aspect after reading and rereading all the rest. It felt a bit like convenient stupidity for plot reasons.
The writing is a bit difficult to follow; unfortunately, the two POVs switch frequently but not regularly, and you have to guess from context which character is speaking. There are a few points where it’s impossible for a paragraph or two to figure out who is even supposed to be speaking, making everything rather confusing — especially since I don’t think the devil character has a name, and is usually just referred to as ‘he’, ‘him’, etc.
That’s all pretty negative, though: I did enjoy the story, the careful set-up, the bureaucratic version of selling your soul and how all of that was handled. It just didn’t catch hold of me in the way that The Last Witness did.