Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for Jonathan Whitelaw’s Hellcorp!
Here’s a little info about the book:
Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.
But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…
This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.
And about author Jonathan Whitelaw:
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV. Hellcorp is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.
And here’s Linda Hepworth’s review of Hellcorp:
From the use of the Mark Twain quote, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company”, followed by being introduced to a farting, smoking, whisky-loving Pope in the prologue, I knew this would be a very visual story, one which would have me laughing out loud. By the time I had finished it, my initial expectations had been exceeded and I even found myself wondering whether the story will soon find its way onto our television screens – if it does, I’m sure it will attract a large and enthusiastic audience!
At midnight, the Pope, having just relieved his internal pressure, poured himself a glass of single malt and lit a cigarette, is suddenly confronted by the appearance of the Devil. Feeling both horrified and scared, he wonders if he is having either a heart attack or a psychotic breakdown – maybe he shouldn’t have had that drink? However, although unable to resist questioning the Pope’s long-held beliefs, the Devil mostly wants to talk business. He is weary of always being the “bad-guy”, is badly in need of a holiday (sipping cocktails on a beach appeals) so plans to make Hell a legitimate business by setting up “Hellcorp”, with its global headquarters based in Edinburgh, and further branches planned for other cities and countries. The company will do his job for him, keeping the sins of the world ticking over whilst he takes a well-earned holiday. To his later bewilderment, the Pope realises that he has agreed to fund the venture. However, when God hears of this plan, he summons the Devil “upstairs” and tells him that yes, he can have his vacation, but not until he has solved the mystery of a crime carried out in Glasgow, forty years ago.
Sent to earth in human form, but with no real understanding of the ways of humans, the Devil soon discovers that he needs help and local knowledge, help which comes in the form of Dr Jill Gideon, a junior doctor who understands human frailty all too well. As the reader soon discovers, she is also more than a match for the Devil as she attempts to keep him out of the endless trouble he creates wherever he goes. Their developing relationship and interactions were hugely enjoyable – I loved the fact that she was more than a match for him!
It’s a long time since I have read a story which has been so amusing from start to finish – there were so many moments when I found tears running down my cheeks and my sides aching as a result of laughing so much! I loved the humour, at times very black, which permeated the storytelling and the irreverent explorations of what influences our belief systems and our ways of interacting. There wasn’t one character who wasn’t drawn in vivid colour, who didn’t leap from the page and imprint himself/herself in my memory. From the Devil himself, Alice his long-term secretary (a “big girl with a big bottom”, the Devil’s preferred body shape), Dr Jill Gideon, a golf-playing God (sometimes Him, sometimes Her), St Peter (receptionist at the heavenly golf club) to a number of more minor characters, they all made an important contribution to the story.
Conversational interactions were full of wisecracks and sharp wit and, in addition to the wonderful Devil/Jill relationship, I loved the sparky love/hate relationship between the Devil and God – a delightful twist on sibling rivalry! The part of the story development which was about the solving of the forty-year-old crime also had some very satisfying, and unexpected, twists and turns.
In spite of his portrayal within the story as a menacing, tantrum-throwing, unscrupulous, narcissistic, character, accompanied by all those old warnings from teachings at Sunday School, I found myself caring for the Devil and what happened to him – perhaps I should be feeling worried about falling for such an anti-hero! However, he was also portrayed as being very witty, clever and charismatic and it is this acknowledgement of complexity, throughout the book, which underlies the rather more philosophical, thought-provoking aspects of the story-telling, as the author explores ideas of good and evil and challenges certain religious, moral and ethical certainties. I also appreciated the many references to literature, music and modern cultural interests.
This is a certainly a crime novel with a difference, so I hope that my enthusiasm for it will encourage you to set aside a few hours to suspend disbelief and join these wonderfully drawn characters on their hilarious, but often thought-provoking journey of discovery.
Linda Hepworth 5*
HellCorp by Jonathan Whitelaw
Urbane Publications 9781911583721 pbk Jul 2018