Book Review: Hellzapoppin by Heide Goody, Iain Grant

clovenhoof #4Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar…

Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels…

Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding.

The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.

I received this from the authors in exchange for a review. This book will be released in October 2015 and is the 4th in the Clovenhoof series. I have read and reviewed books in this series before (published by Pigeon Park Press), most recently Godsquad and this book is very much in the same vein of writing and humour.

Brother Stephen, is cursed with a face that dooms him to forever being called Trevor, despite no one knowing what a Trevor looks like.  He is now a monk living on a small island of the coast of Wales, with a small community of monks, and awaiting the arrival of their new Abbot, Eustace. The community are also trying to make their way in the modern world, faced with being regularly cut off from the mainland by weather (and quarantine laws and, well, the youtube effect).  Things aren’t helped with the deaths of a number of their community in what could best be described as “suspicious” circumstances.

Rutpsud , a demon of the sixth circle, who has an exemplary success rate (according to the most recent feedback survey from his tormented souls) is moved into R&D to figure out more interesting and efficient ways of tormenting the damned. His access to the work of people like C. S. Lewis (who has a thing for building wardrobes) and Escher (whose thing is for building staircases) not only makes parts of Hell look like IKEA, but gives Rutpsud access to  St Cadfan and from this, an unlikely friendship develops between Stephen and Rutpsud.

Both Earth and Hell have their own problems, but by working together Stephen and Rutpsud attempt to make things better, and sometimes even succeed – but not always.   Hell is getting hotter, and Rutpsud is in the firing line to take the blame, and therefore needs to find a way of making things better. The inhabitants of St Cadfan are drinking too much seaweed beer, have spent months on starvation rations, and their only potential source of income is a pair of suicidal birds that have managed to get themselves killed before hatching their chicks. Meanwhile things come to a head in both the earthly and hellish plains, that mean characters confront long held secrets and nothing remains the same……(except where it does).

That’s about as far as I’m going to go with describing the story line. This is in the best tradition of the comic farce, with ridiculous and outrageous events that are usually grounded in some level of reality. It is a specific writing style and level of humour that some people will not get, but many people will, and will enjoy it.

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