It is uncanny how a writer can so easily create a work that revitalizes a genre and sends it in a new direction simultaneously leading the reader on a breathless chase after clues that reassert the book’s place as a solid detective mystery. And this is a noir mystery, no doubt – the darkest you can imagine for it is set in Hell and there can be no blacker place for murder and deception.
Thomas Fool is an Information Man charged with investigating crimes that have attracted Hell’s notice. Crimes, of course, occur all the time in Hell: murder, rape, brutality of all sorts, but Fool is sent to investigate only those that are noticeable. He is informed of these crimes with red ribbon wrapped tubes and the majority of his work is stamping the notices of crimes as “DNI” or “do not investigate” and sending them away. When a blue ribbon tube arrives, things begin to change because the body pulled from the lake is found to have no soul, and Fool can only follow up the clues that indicate that something very powerful and very old, capable of eating souls, is on the prowl; he has his work cut out for him – in thousands of years no one has investigated such a dangerous creature, much less ever made an effort to stop something of such power.
What distinguishes Thomas Fool is that he has no memory of his life before Hell: no knowledge of what sins dammed him or why he was picked to be an Information Man in the first place. He was pulled out of the ocean of Limbo and put into a uniform and told that this is what he will be. Unlike the other humans in Hell, Fool has purpose and “jurisdiction” and an unfailing sense of justice that drives him despite where he is and what he has to endure. He has questions to ask and places to investigate that lie beyond what normal humans see in Hell; he even has inhuman friends that he can source for information. He uses all these sources relentlessly to get closer to his quarry – he will do whatever is necessary to catch whatever is murdering with impunity.
It is this drive that makes Thomas Fool the greatest kind of detective because although he is beaten and almost killed on occasion, something inside him makes him shake off these abuses for the sake of finding the truth. It matters to him that the Sorrowful are being murdered and his empathy extends beyond humans, for on some occasions, as an officer of Hell, he must protect the demons. Truly a genre bending and thrilling literary mystery you won’t soon forget. Certainly my favorite book of 2015 so far!