|Hell to Pay|
I've been waiting for Hell to Pay, the continuation of Matthew Hughes' highly comical saga of Chesney Arnstruther, for months now. In the first book, Chesney accidentally summoned a demon. When he refused to actually sell his soul, Chesney kicked off a crisis Upstairs and Down. The upshot of the crisis for Chesney was that he got a demon to help him become a crime fighter called The Actionary. The crisis got even more complicated in the second book. By this book, Chesney's entire universe has become unstable because so many of its fundamental rules have been broken.
Hell to Pay opens with Chesney having run out of crime to fight in his nameless city. His ally on the police force, Captain Denby, has risen to the rank of Chief of police based on the evidence he and Chesney have collected about the illegal activities of the men who run the city. Chesney's girlfriend, Melda, is managing a multimillion dollar empire. Chesney's not happy, though. In the second book, Costume Not Included, Chesney had a brush with Yeshua bar Yusef that cured him of his autism. He no longer sees the world in terms of black, white, and mathematics. For the first time in his life, he starts to see the ramifications of his actions as a crime fighter, the impact on the innocent bystanders, and starts to feel guilty because of it. He embarks on a quest to cure a not-so-innocent bystander that has been driven catatonic. Meanwhile, Chief Denby, continues his own quest to completely bring down the Twenty.
For a long while, these to quests continue in nearly opposite directions. So much so, in fact, that I started to see Denby's plot thread as an unsuccessful offshoot that pulled attention away from Chesney's much more interesting thread. I started to get irritated because Chesney had become embroiled in a conflict with Lucifer's second in command that looked to finally shed some light on what the Big Guy was up to. It became clear in Chesney's thread that his particular universe might be on its way back to the drawing board. Fortunately, Hughes brings the plots back together for a highly interesting conclusion. Denby's story is very much worth putting up with for the ending Hughes gives us.
I love it when an author reveals that there's been a bigger story behind the individual books' plots. Hughes never hid this, but each new book shows new layers and tie them all together. I'm very curious to see what Hughes reveals in the next book.