No rest for the wicked.
Such is the theme of Hell Bound, Andrew P. Weston’s newest addition to his growing collection of novels. The souls of Earth’s most vile and despicable humans are cast into Hell, rolled like dice into a sinister House where injustice is the high card and evil’s the royal flush. Their dealer: Daemon Grim, Satan’s very own pit boss . . . who just so happens to be the Grim Reaper. Imbued with supernatural powers and a list of the damned, Grim drags the very worst of humanity to Hell, where they spend eternity in various levels of pain and horror – and where they never seem to win the hand. Because, after all, eternal damnation isn’t meant to be fun.
Unless, of course, pain and horror is your fun. And, with players like these . . . you’re bound to find a sadist or two who revels in the opportunity to bet against the house and challenge the Grim Reaper to a game of wits with their very soul at stake. But, no one beats the House . . . until now.
As Weston effortlessly weaves together a surprisingly tangible and unexpectedly humorous vision of Hell as a grimy, rotting version of Earth’s London, we join Grim as he hunts down a soul who’s eluded his fate at the hands of The Undertaker. Grim and his enforcers, a trio of Hell Hounds, along with help from the Fiendish Bureau of Investigation and some fantastically named ladies, Bella and Donna Nightshade, make their way into the very bowels of Hell and discover that injustice and evil only feed upon each other. It turns out, inviting the very worst of humanity to sit at the same bar where they can hatch a plan to collectively take down the House probably wasn’t the best idea His Infernal Satanic Majesty has ever had. But, of course . . . that’s what his Pit Boss, The Reaper, is for.
Ultimately, Weston’s novel is highly inventive and surprisingly enthralling. It’s a mob drama with a taste of the supernatural (and Weston’s signature love of all things involving the space time continuum). Despite the fact that these characters are genuinely unlikable individuals, I find myself intrigued by their stories. They’re fascinating looks into what evil might resemble if evil was allowed to flourish openly.
However, while I enjoyed the stories and found the characters supremely disgusting (exactly what you want when your characters are, quite literally, demons), I found myself distracted by the flow of much of the dialogue. Grim’s tendency to talk to himself made it difficult for me to discern how much he really knew and felt a little bit like his was explaining his own character to me, when I would have preferred to have figured it out as I went along. It works well if we’re talking about a character written from the third person, but as a first-person character, I found it made certain scenes awkward and choppy. There was also a level of “he said, she said, he said, I said” bing-bang-bong dialogue that lent itself better to my favorite of Weston’s novels, The IX. That being said, once you get used to the snappy dialogue and the way the characters think, the story falls into place.
Hell Bound is a vividly wrought story of evil at its best, and while it took me some time to get inside Grim’s head, the story was compelling and a fascinating venture into the world of unsequestered villainy. Now, admittedly, it was more of a cop/mystery story than I was expecting (and I typically stay away from mystery novels), so if that’s not up your alley, I suggest giving it a few chapters and seeing if the world is intriguing enough for you to continue exploring. For me, I had no problem diving further into the dredges of Hell, betting on Weston’s world building to win me the hand even when I was worried the cards weren’t in my favor.
And, for the record, I bet correctly.
Overall Score: 7/10