The Devil’s Evidence: Thomas Fool book 1 by Simon Kurt Unsworth (book review).

No one knows why they have been assigned to Hell, no one knows if they will ever be released to Heaven. It’s the hope that kills you, over and over again.

‘The Devil’s Detective ‘is something different and the first of two books about a resident of Hell assigned to investigating crimes of violence against the human residents. Humans cannot and are unable to kill each other, so unexplained deaths are down to the demons or other unknowns. Thomas Fool is an Information Man, working on behalf of the ruling demons.

He is assigned to look after a delegation of angels visiting Hell to agree on which souls can be uplifted and transported to Heaven. He must sit in on the meetings and between this also do his job. Fool receives a special canister with a blue ribbon which means the crime must be investigated and it is taken to the Questioning House where Questioner Morgan must use certain arcane methods to interrogate the corpse. It sure does get strange but then we are in Hell.

Certain events prove pivotal for Thomas. His dealings with the angels change him a little. Gordie and Summer have formed an attachment which contrives to make even Thomas feel a little bit more human again. Nothing about Hell will be the same as the events uncoil and the corruption is laid out.

This is a superb thriller, the setting is impressively drawn where the dead are fished from Limbo. A clever version of Hell this is an urban soup of moral decay and despair, a painting by Hogarth but without the children and with added imps.

Thomas Fool is as much in the dark as anyone as he tries to do the right thing in the Stygian pit.

Hell is all-seeing but it insists that Fool investigates and brings the truth into the light. It’s an interesting idea. The purpose of Hell is to torture but the flaming pits are gone and are replaced by meaningless factories, demeaning farm labour and sex workers who’s clients are demons. The team of three Information Men have to make sense of this. Fool is reason, Gordie is all about facts and Summer, feelings. This combination and the interaction with demons, angels and nature in the form of ‘The Man of Plants and Flowers’ makes for a strong fantasy with an attraction for those also enjoying the crime procedural. It’s engaging and Thomas Fool shares our own hapless traits and has a constant morality despite his place of residence.

I thoroughly recommend this and the sequel ‘The Devil’s Evidence’. Sadly, Simon Unsworth is busy with other projects currently so now book 3 ‘yet-Fool’ will have to stay in Hell for a little bit longer.

Sue Davies

September 2019

(pub: Del Rey-UK, 2018. 494 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-091956-54-7)

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