The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth

STATUS: Completed

Thomas Fool is the detective from the title and he lives in Hell.  Literally.  This fine, thrilling book is set in the fiery, or not so fiery, pits of Hell.  Unsworth creates a sweltering, dry and desperate land unlike anything I have ever read about.  It is cruel and dangerous; dilapidated and creaking; rusting and rotten; but above all it feels barren and arid – a desert full of disparate people.  The hopelessness of Unsworth’s Hell is hot and dehydrated.  Torture and punishment have gone and have been replaced with constant despondency and continual anguish.  Fool has been tasked with solving a murder – the majority of the crimes in Hell are expected and condoned, but every so often comes a crime that the Bureaucracy wants investigated.  The investigation coincides with the visitation of angels from heaven; givers of the greatest of prizes: a one-way trip to Heaven.  These angels and the head of the colossal Bureaucracy of Hell are superbly drawn characters.  But Fool is the best.  It’s not often that I like the lead character the most, I certainly prefer members of the supporting cast more often than not, but Fool is not only expertly characterised; he is likeable and lacks all of the superciliousness of other fictional detectives and investigators.  The sequel, The Devil’s Evidence, is on the list for a read and I can’t wait for it.  Thanks, Unsworth; I usually avoid a series, but in this instance, I simply find it unavoidable.

4 out of 5

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