- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (March 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385539347
- ISBN-13: 978-0385539340
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 106 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Devil's Detective: A Novel Hardcover – March 3, 2015
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"With the character of Fool, Simon Kurt Unsworth has crafted a hero among the damned. Original, tense, and full of twists, this is one hell of a great read."
--Hugh Howey, New York Times Bestselling author of Wool
"I think this might be the most whimsical murder story ever told. The Devil’s Detective is relentlessly creative, fearlessly witty, and completely twisted. Naturally, I loved it."
--Chelsea Cain, New York Times bestselling author of One Kick, Heartsick, and more.
"Dark and luminous, compelling and insidious, The Devil’s Detective is a novel that transcends genre.”
--Michael Marshall Smith, bestselling author of The Intruders and The Straw Men
"Hell as the setting for a noir investigation turns out to be as fun as it sounds in The Devil's Detective. Inventive and pacy, Simon Kurt Unsworth has created a world--underworld?--distinctly his own."
-- Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned
“Inventive and intriguing--Unsworth turns a journey through Hell into a heavenly read."
-- Alison Littlewood, author of A Cold Season
“An entertaining Dantean spin on the police procedural… Appropriately awash with gore and bodily fluids, The Devil’s Detective is damned good.” The Financial Times (FT.com)
"With wit, ingenuity and prodigious timing, first-time British novelist Unsworth imagines an unsettling afterlife that at times feels uncomfortably close to some of the more unbearable regions of our waking dreams...A grand, nightmarish page-turner that will have you riveted no matter how much you'd prefer to look away."
"A clever spin on the traditional police procedural...We’ve seen other novels set in Hell, but we haven’t seen a Hell quite like this."
“It is uncanny how a writer can so easily create a work that revitalizes a genre and sends it in a new direction simultaneously leading the reader on a breathless chase after clues that reassert the book’s place as a solid detective mystery….[The Devil’s Detective is] truly a genre bending and thrilling literary mystery you won’t soon forget. Certainly my favorite book of 2015 so far!”
--BookPeople’s Blog (Austin, TX)
"Readers of mystery stories looking to dip their toes into the waters of speculative fiction may find something to rave about in The Devil's Detective."
--Kirkus, "New Speculative Fiction Debuts You Won't Want to Miss"
“A layered, fascinating first novel that will put readers firmly in mind of Clive Barker as they indulge in the gorgeous detail of Hell and all of its squalid denizens. The Devil’s Detective is an ambitious yet accomplished piece of work that will leave the reader not only wanting more Thomas Fool but hoping against hope that the reality of Hell isn’t anywhere near as bad as the version in Unsworth’s imagination.”
“Impressive, intricate, and imaginative….Highly recommended for horror fans, but especially to fans of Barker!”
“The Devil's Detective has the capability to be a real breakout novel, one of those rare breeds of a horror novel that manages to escape from the genre and appeal to much wider audience. The balance between the genre trappings and tropes of both horror and crime is perfectly balanced.”
About the Author
Simon Kurt Unsworth was born in Manchester and lives in a farmhouse in Cumbria, in the United Kingdom. He is the author of many short stories, including the collection Quiet Houses. The Devil's Detective is his first novel.
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I spend most of the book wondering why Hell would care. I also spent most of the book wondering about the economics of Hell. What were they making in those factories, for example? Why are there trains? Why not just have the damned souls sleep in the factories? Why are there bars in Hell?
This is a most un-Hellish Hell.
I was intrigued, but also more than a little bit concerned. A lot of urban fantasy writers soften up their demons. They make them more likeable and personable and approachable, which seems odd. Likewise, Hell gets softened until it is just another place, rather than the epitome of a place. I don't like this humanizing of demons, but, on the other hand, if we make demons and angels truly other and as far from us as we are from a dog, where does that leave the story?
Apparently, Hell has not always been this way. Until some time in the not too distant past, Hell had lakes of fire and torture racks, and no Information Men.
This story is a murder mystery during the reception of a foreign embassy. The embassy is from Heaven. The angels Adam and Balthasar are in Hell to promote a handful of randomly-selected damned souls to Heaven. During the embassy, the body of a male prostitute who services demons is found. His soul has been removed. Fool follows the clues, somewhat woodenly, and begins to develop a belief in his mission. Because he has a gun and is willing to use it on demons, he attracts the attention of Hell's bureaucracy and the adulation of human souls.
There are other puzzles in the story. Who is the Man of Plants and Flowers and how did he transform from a damned human soul into what he is? Why are demons worried about him? Why are there even plants in Hell?
More desouled bodies accumulate as Fool continues his investigation. Ultimately, he follows the clues to the end, and, although I was a few steps ahead, I found the resolution satisfying. I particularly liked the ending and the vision of the Hell that is coming.
The writing was competent and occasionally profound. Apparently, I am not the only one who got tired of Fool's mental lamentation calling himself "stupid Fool" or "pitiable Fool" or whatever, but anyone who has been depressed knows how such voices can take over, and there ought to be no more depressing a place than Hell. I am interested in reading the next instalment and sees what develops.
In many ways the author has reinvented the "horror" genre with this mystery set inside the boundaries of Hell with stark reminiscences of our everyday world. This is a place where humans are sent to serve demons as a slave, having no knowledge of their past sins...only the realization that they must have done something terribly wrong and are now paying the price for it.
The story centers on Thomas Fool, who is one of Hell's Information Men. His two partners are Gordie and Summer. They are actually police detectives who investigate the countless crimes taking place in Hell every week, knowing it is fruitless and that few citizens actually want the crimes resolved.
These police investigators, however, have full autonomy with regards to each investigation they apply their skills to. They have the authority to question any citizen of Hell and visit whatever sections of Hell they want in the pursuit of an active investigation.
While investigating the murder of a human being near the Lake of Fire that's occupied by hungry demons, Fool begins a journey that will slowly change his life and how he views the things around him. What Fool soon realizes is that the murderer is a serial killer, and the deaths keep racking up as the Information Man draws closer to its final conclusion, suspecting that a monstrous demon has to be behind the deaths of so many humans.
What made this novel unrelenting to read, at least for me, is not only the terrific concept of what Hell is, but the writing style of the author and the unusual characters he creates for his story. There's the Man of Plants and Flowers, the angels Adam and Balthazar, Elderflower, and Rhakshasas and the other horrific demons that live off the agony experienced by humans.
It took nearly two-dozen pages for me to get used to Hell as it's described and the somewhat flowery prose of the author. The writing style, which wouldn't work for other novels, turned out to be absolutely perfect for this one. It seemed to add a flowing richness to the vivid descriptions and subtle texture of the story and made you want to continue.
I also kept seeing the actor, Clive Owen in a dark overcoat, as Thomas Fool, an investigator who has become complacent in his solving of the endless crimes. It isn't until this particular case lands in his lap that he's able to sweep the dusty cobwebs away from his murky vision and pursue the investigation to its mind-blowing resolution.
I should also mention that the use of so many adverbs and adjectives would normally turn me off to a novel, but not this one. After a day of reading, I found myself secretly hooked by the author's prose and loved the way he made everything appear in your mind with such utter clarity. It made the story of Hell and Thomas Fool more engrossing and detailed to one's imagination.
I will add that the novel ends in such a way as to invite a sequel, which I hope the author is already writing.
So, this book is highly recommended for its sheer brilliance and originality. It's both a mystery and a horror novel, and I trust that Hollywood already has its keen eyes focused upon the story. This would make one hell of a movie!
Hell, however, is not quite what one might expect. It is no longer a hell of burning torture – much to the disappointment of a hardcore angel in Heaven’s visiting delegation. It is a hell of bureaucracy and brutality – the latter typically supplied by Hell’s demon population, which coexists uneasily with its human damned population. The sinners who occupy it don’t even remember their past lives. In the words of one reviewer – “Hell is essentially the worst parts of all the worst cities…part slum, part gang territory and part red light district”.
Amidst all this is Thomas Fool, one of Hell’s Information Men – or what passes for a minimalist police force, both in terms of numbers and function, the latter virtually as bystanders to Hell’s crimes. However, for once, the powers that be in Hell want him to actually investigate a murder through to a conclusive finding, apparently for their amusement as much as anything else – although it may have also something to do with keeping up appearances for the visiting delegation of angels from Heaven. Of course, murders in hell evoke the line from Apocalypse Now – “charging a man with murder in this place is like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500”. In this case, however, there is more to it than meets the eye.
And that is essentially the inventive twist of the novel – a detective ‘noir’ novel set in Hell, although it is the world-building of Fool’s Hell that holds attention here.