The Devil's Detective, Simon Kurt Unsworth

Well this is a first. I’m writing a review for a book before I’ve even finished it. I’m currently audiobooking The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth. I was drawn to it because I recognised the name from Facebook and could have sworn at some point we had been ‘friends’, so having a social media presence obviously works, folks. Apparently.

When I read the description, I was even more intrigued. Hell is no longer a place of fire and brimstone torment, but has become the epitome of the worst of modern life; an eternity of waiting in limbo, only to be en-corporated (and yes I did spell that right) in a hell of drudgery and oppression, fear of the Demons who still wreak terrible violence on humans at the slightest provocation. Nobody knows what their sins were, only that they are being punished. Death sends the soul back to limbo, and the worst torment of all is that there is a hope, just the slightest sliver of lottery-rare hope, that you might be pardoned and elevated to Heaven.
And then come the new murders. Killings so dreadful, so horrific, that the soul is ripped from the body and consumed – but by what nobody knows. Not even Thomas Fool, the Devil’s Detective, and head of the Information Department.
Right from the opening words, this tale grips. From the opening description of the new Hell, the subtly ordinary yet disquieting ways of tormenting sinners, and the parallels with societies run by capitalist, brutal overlords the reader is drawn in to a world of remarkable richness, simultaneously unexpected yet familiar. I was very forcefully reminded of the first time I audiobooked The City and The City, by China Mieville.
If I had to throw any flies into the ointment, there is one character I felt the narrator had got wrong, and the tone used grated on my nerves and ears. I was left perhaps inappropriately pleased when the character was killed, which is why I haven’t named him, her, or it.
Through Unsworth’s characters, the sense of hopelessness, of fear, or desperately trying not to get noticed, soaks in to you. The constant terror of showing any enjoyment, lest it is taken away, nor loathing, lest it be heaped upon you, grinds the characters down. Punishment is crafty and cruel. But, grind at the end of a worm and eventually, it will turn, and we find that Elevation is not the only source of hope in Hell.

I am not looking forward to finishing this book, and I only have about 2 hours to go. On the other hand, I can then try out another of Unsworth’s novels, although I believe there is another volume in this series. Silver linings are where you find them, I guess.