Tuesday, May 15, 2018


THE DEVIL'S DETECTIVE by Simon Kurt Unsworth

Reviewed by Shane Donald

Thomas Fool is an Information Man, an investigator tasked with cataloging and filing reports on the endless stream of violence and brutality that flows through Hell. His job holds no reward or satisfaction, because Hell has rules but no justice. Each new crime is stamped "Do Not Investigate" and dutifully filed away in the depths of the Bureaucracy. 

But when an important political delegation arrives and a human is found murdered in a horrific manner—extravagant even by Hell's standards—everything changes. The murders escalate, and their severity points to the kind of killer not seen for many generations. Something is challenging the rules and order of Hell, so the Bureaucracy sends Fool to identify and track down the killer. . . . 

But how do you investigate murder in a place where death is common currency? Or when your main suspect pool is a legion of demons? With no memory of his past and only an irresistible need for justice, Fool will piece together clues and follow a trail that leads directly into the heart of a dark and chaotic conspiracy. A revolution is brewing in Hell . . . and nothing is what it seems.

Imagine being a detective in hell – a place where demons rule man and use him for sport. That’s the task facing the reader in THE DEVIL'S DETECTIVE. In this novel, Thomas Fool is the leader of hell’s small human police force, an Information Man. He has no memory of his life before hell and no knowledge of how or why he came to be there. His job is a cosmic joke; in a place where chaos reigns and humans are a subjugated by demons, he is expected to keep a semblance of law and order, while humans die all around him.

I’ve made the novel sound bleak so far, but this is a book worth reading as it asks big questions like does having a purpose in life matter if life is futile? Does truth matter in a setting where evil literally reigns?

The plot involves a delegation of angels visiting hell to decide who can ascend to heaven. During the visit, demons begin to turn up dead. Are humans rising up or is something more sinister going on? Thomas Fool is tasked by Elderflower, his demon supervisor, to find the truth.

As a character, Fool does not live up to his name. While going about his duties, he attempts to investigate his own existence, never sure of who he is or what he is but always looking for why. As he begins to see the truth of why hell exists and his function in this place, he begins to feel a very human emotion – hope.

The setting of this story is unique and while in some ways the detective element is utilized as part of a morality tale about guilt and how the guilty should be punished, this is also a crime novel that makes the reader think. However, given how unremitting the setting becomes – you never escape the fact that hell is a terrible place that makes sense only on a cosmic level – this novel had me pondering how the human condition shapes who we are and how we respond to evil.

Overall, I’d recommend this book, but don’t expect a very happy ending.

Shane Donald is a New Zealander living in Taiwan. An avid reader with 3,000 books in his home, he completed a dissertation on Ngaio Marsh for his MA degree, and also has a PhD in applied linguistics

No comments:

Post a Comment