Thursday, 14 February 2013

Hell to Pay

Meet Chesney Arnstruther. Once a mild-mannered insurance actuary, now a full-time crime-fighting superhero, it’s all he can do to kick bad-guy ass while at the same time holding down a steady relationship with the gorgeous Melda. Something is going on.
Meet Xaphan, wise-cracking demon and the source of (almost) all of Chesney’s powers. He’s been asked by his infernal master to give Chesney whatever he needs... but surely stopping bad guys is not in Hell’s plan? Something is definitely going on.
Meet Arthur Wrigley, a modest yet charming older gentleman whose nasty little hobby is fleecing innocent widows. Meet Simon Magus, ancient mystic and magician from Biblical times now very much enamoured of Vegas, baby. And pray you never meet the Chikkichikk, a proud and ancient race of, well, warrior dinosaurs, from the universe that God made then rejected before He started monkeying around with this one.
Whatever the hell is going on, this is definitely the third book in the wondrous To Hell & Back series.

Losing none of the previous offerings wit or charm, Matthew Hughes has ended his To Hell and Back series in the best possible way: by leaving me wanting more.  The structure of Hell to Pay resembles the content of the two proceeding books.  Part one is Chesney and Xaphan dealing with a con-man the old fashioned way, like they used to in The Damned Busters.  I thought this was a clever way to start the book, as the sequel, Costume Not Included, had been more about theology than a newly minted superhero. 

However, the intelligent religious discussion that I have come to expect from Chesney and Co. isn't abandoned for long.  Part two of Hell to Pay returns to matters of 'The Twelve' and the disruption in Hell now that Satan is working on The Book of Chesney in the Garden of Eden.  This time around the discussions of how we came to be doesn't overpower character development.  I thought that Hughes had allowed for smaller moments between individual characters, and this paid off.  Chesney's realisation that the changes that Joshua made to him perhaps weren't for the best and that he didn't need fixing were handled in a sensitive and skillful way.  Then there's a discussion between Chesney and Melda towards the finale that's verging on heartbreaking.  On the brighter side, Hughes made sure that the fantastic rum drinking fiend Xaphan had plenty to do, and occupied quite a lot of Hell to Pay.

I'm definitely sad to see the series conclude but I think that the final few pages left the characters I had grown to love in a good place.  Though maybe in the future Xaphan could have his own spin-off series?  Please?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited to read this!!! And according to that desciption there are warrior dinosaurs somewhere in this book? AWESOME.

    I'm really glad you liked this, great review :-)