The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth
*I received an ARC from Netgalley. This is my honest review."
When I started The Devil’s Detective I knew it might be a bit of a challenge. It’s been described as bleak and has also been compared to Clive Barker and though I’ve always adored Barker’s work, I’ve always had to give him my 100% attention because his stuff is rich with description and layer upon layer of dread.
I’m not going to lie. This book made me work. It’s filled with a despair that I just can’t put into words. The author painstakingly recreates Hell as a place you’d never, ever want to visit but not because there is some evil entity setting your ass on fire. No, in this version of Hell you don’t even know why you’re here so there’s not even a sense of “I was an asshole. I deserve this.” You arrive with no memory, are given a job and then you’re not allowed to do it properly. Talk about an exercise in frustration! Your existence is one of despair, tedium and malaise. And that’s all there is.
The story follows an “Information Man” called Fool who is dispatched to investigate the dead bodies that turn up in Hell (it is Hell and overrun with demons, after all). Fool catalogues endless crimes and murders but no one follows up on any of it until one day he runs across a body whose soul appears to have been eaten. Deliciousness! But that’s weird, even in Hell, so The Powers that Be get their ears all perked up and Fool is given a mission as well as a forbidden smidge of hope that maybe, perhaps this one case will be one he’ll actually get to solve.
The best part about this book is the imagery. The characters, if I’m being honest, are rather uninteresting. There’s a female or two and they’re pretty useless creatures, whining and wailing and lamenting and carrying on. Meh, go away. I have no patience for you. A livelier Fool would’ve made this one go down easier but he’s too bland for my taste. The descriptions are 100% what kept me reading but at a bit of a snail’s pace. I never felt an undying urge to keep going to see if he solved the mystery but keep going I did. I don’t regret it though because as I said the imagery and savagery is worth the time.
“He raised his head, feeling something that had to be blood roll down the side of his face. He lifted a hand to it, finding a short tear just below his hairline, another wound that would scar to a keloid ridge and add to the story of his time here, a story written across his skin in the language of Hell.”