Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for The Man in the Dark!

Here’s a little info about the book:

The Devil’s back – and he’s STILL not had a holiday.

There’s another mystery to solve – a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God’s bidding, The Devil can’t resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.

While the Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there’s trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity’s greatest backstabbers – Brutus and Cassius – are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown.

It’s a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe stop the apocalypse.

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 The Man in the Dark:

The Devil had just started to enjoy his long-overdue holiday, relaxing on a beautiful, remote, sun-kissed beach and was feeling appreciative that God had not only kept His word in allowing him to have this break, but had created somewhere so magnificent for him to have it. He was feeling that all was well in his world, then the phone rang … it was for him … “I’ve got another one for you.” Who else could it be but Him, with yet more demands? Although reluctant to be always at His beck and call, Brutus and Cassius persuade him that, with the success of Hellcorp, he is currently at the height of his powers and that by accepting God’s latest challenge, he now has the ideal opportunity to upset the natural order of things and to achieve even greater power. Although in the past he’s been tempted, a certain lethargy has always stopped him from putting in the necessary effort … but perhaps now he really can put one over on God and have more?

So, trusting Brutus and Cassius to “steady the ship” in his absence, and knowing that Alice, his loyal secretary (in addition to being his ideal woman), would be there to look after his interests, he takes on the challenge. Once again he finds himself in human form, this time on the streets of London helping the police, in particular no-nonsense DS Laurie, to find a woman who has been kidnapped by terrorists. But it’s not long before things start to go badly wrong and he realises that the challenge to the old order is coming from a different direction. He should never have allowed himself to be seduced by the flattery of Brutus and Cassius … after all he, better than anyone, should have known just how treacherous they’re capable of being.

“Lodged” in a strange human body (to his disgust, most definitely not a prime specimen!), still finding it difficult to understand what makes human beings tick, beset by out of control rioters, violent demonstrations on the streets, with even the coppers turning rogue and, at times, his direct line of communication to Him Upstairs cut off, the Devil soon feels that on all fronts he’s fighting a losing battle.

It’s difficult to go into too much detail about the development of this story without running the risk of including spoilers, so I’m just going to share some of the reasons I found it such a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking read. I loved the descriptions of the relationship between The Devil and a sometimes Him, sometimes Her, God, with their mutual point-scoring and yet their essential interdependence. I found the accounts of the despair and confusion each of them experience when they realise that the old order is being threatened, that the apocalypse is looming and they wonder whether they can cooperate to stop it, or whether it’s already too late, surprisingly moving – and disturbingly thought-provoking. For the multitude of ways in which they are different, what does become clear is that the one thing they do agree on is that human beings need to stop expecting them to “do something” and instead need to start taking responsibility for their own actions and behaviour!

I loved that the story explores the worst of what humans are capable of but also shows them capable of compassion and unselfish caring. On this theme, one of the things I really enjoyed was the developing relationship between The Devil and Laurie, with her gradually coming to believe that he really was who he claimed to be and yet still being prepared to introduce him to her husband and young daughter, and to show him that a caring partner and family can offer an unshakeable foundation of comforting, loving support.

As in Hellcorp, the humour is often dark, but it is also frequently laugh-out-loud funny – something which, given the nature of some of the themes in this story, came as a very welcome respite! In many ways I found there was far more tension in this story, with dark deeds feeling a much deeper shade of black! Maybe a major reason I found it so much more disturbing than is because we’re currently living through such a turbulent time, with communities riven by division, tolerance of other points of view fast-disappearing and the disturbingly unpredictable behaviour of our elected representatives adding fuel to the fire! On both a national and an international level, people are vying for more and more power and yet appear to have little idea of how they are going to use it if they get it. No wonder it felt so easy to identify with God’s despair at the disastrous effects of the attempts to overturn the old order (the image of Him/Her in tears at the approaching apocalypse was a powerful one), with The Devil’s confusion as he struggled to deal with the weakening of his power, as well as with their joint desire to get things back onto an even keel. On a more light-hearted level I had some fun imagining which politicians I’d cast in the roles of those perfidious traitors, Brutus and Cassius – I know The Devil is bad, but there were moments when he felt like a saint in comparison!

One of the delights of Jonathan’s books is the way in which philosophical questions about the nature of good and evil underpin his story-telling. The fact that this is never done in a “preachy” way makes the thought-provoking impact of his reflections even more powerful and is a major reason why his books would provide rich sources of discussion for reading groups.

Having read (and LOVED!) Hellcorp earlier in the year, I’d been eagerly anticipating the promised sequel and Jonathan’s latest outing with Eternity’s bad guy more than fulfilled my high expectations – and as the ending would appear to suggest that he hasn’t yet finished having fun with his main character, perhaps I can anticipate another encounter with this charismatic anti-hero?!

One final reflection – I notice that the ISBN includes 666 … what a serendipitous delight!!

Linda Hepworth 5/5

The Man in the Dark by Jonathan Whitelaw
Urbane Publications 9781912666461 pbk Sep 2019