It appears that the Devil is a virgin.
That’s a good place to begin a review of Jonathan Whitelaw’s humorous, fast-paced, genre-bending novel HellCorp. The most entertaining element of this comedic, urban-fantasy crime novel is the Devil, who shifts from being surprisingly sincere and occasionally innocent to the good old antic deviant we’ve come to know and love.
Whitelaw’s Devil is interesting for a few different reasons, but I loved the fact that he’s not an all-powerful, super-manipulative evil-doer. He’s part of a larger system, and, for better or worse, he’s really at the mercy of God. Even more interesting is that the Devil does not just go around being nasty; he has a complex moral code that he tries to follow.
These are more philosophical points that shouldn’t distract from the entertaining nature of this character. Readers really won’t know what the Devil is going to do from one moment to the next, and that certainly makes for a fun read.
There are a few different threads pulling the story along. There’s the development of the Devil’s business venture, a company called HellCorp, which is designed to bring a little dash of Hades to the world. There’s also a complex back-and-forth between God and the Devil that sets the story in motion. God appears and disappears when he/she feels the Devil needs to be spoken to or tested. Case in point, God makes the Devil mortal and tasks him with solving a crime in order to teach him a lesson.
Most compelling, there’s the mysterious death of Antonio Baggio, an Italian immigrant. The Devil’s sidekick in this adventure, the spunky and sharp Doctor Jillian Gideon, is a woman who has demons of her own. The two have a quasi-romantic relationship that never really blossoms because the Devil has only recently become human, and he doesn’t appear to be all that interested in our mating practices.
There are several nice twists and turns in HellCorp. There was a moment midway when I wasn’t sure how Whitelaw was going to tie all of the various threads together, but each one is nicely knotted by the story’s end.
On a slightly different note, the cover art and design of this book is really quite pleasing. There is a retro quality to the various images interspersed through the book. It is obvious that someone has taken the time to cultivate the appearance of HellCorp, and it definitely adds to the reading experience. It is - and forgive me for being so direct - the kind of novel that would look nice on a bookshelf.
It appears that this is the first in a series of books in Whitelaw’s whacky, genre-bending HellCorp universe. This book was a lot fun. You might want to start reading now before everyone else finds out.
Written by Tom Halford