As I've mentioned in a previous review, I was disappointed with the first book in Matthew Hughes' To Hell and Back series. I had ordered the sequel, Costume Not Included, at the same time from the library and I wasn't over enthused to begin reading. So after a break of a few weeks I decided with trepidation to go on another adventure with Chesney ' Actionary' Arnstruther and and his demon sidekick Xaphan.
Chesney Arnstruther's efforts to Save the Day and Get the Girl are making slow progress. This superhero stuff is more complicated than he first thought, even with a cigar-chomping demon for a sidekick.
But while Chesney is trying to learn the ropes, Boss Greeley has made a deal with the Devil, a pact that is making the villain stronger by the minute. Meanwhile, the Reverend Hardacre has been doing some research into matters spiritual and has found that not everything in the Garden (of Eden) is rosy.
For me, Costume Not Included was a marked improvement, and I wish that this was the first book in the series. I found it easy to read and finished within a day. Hughes grapples with the same concepts of good and evil and everything in between as before, but has moved the story in a different direction; focusing more on his characters relationships with each other and the Reverend Billy Lee Hardacre's intentions for writing The Book of Chesney. While slightly plot light, the cast of characters are all written well, and there has been plenty of development between the two books, with Chesney dealing with his new relationship and introducing Melda to his his somewhat hypocritical uptight mother. Then there's Xaphan, who, as always, was fantastic as the chain cigar smoking, constant rum drinking fiend.
I look forward to more Hell and Back Adventures, and hope that Hughes can find an even better way to utilise his characters through a stronger plot.