The Grim Reaper Has Got His Problems Too
What a fun idea for a protagonist! The Grim Reaper! Apart from Darth Vader, there’s probably not a more foreboding character in all of literature (and Darth Vader is really just the Grim Reaper with his face painted black). In “Hell Bound,” Satan has tasked Grim with hunting down Thomas Neill Cream known to infamy as the Lambeth Poisoner (there’s also speculation that he might have been Jack the Ripper). It turns out that Cream is just as much a problem in Hell as he was on Earth as this book finds him in league with Nikola Tesla to finagle an escape from eternal torment.
Never fear as Daemon Grim is on the case, tracking down Cream and his accomplices in a novel that is part detective story, part noir, and part tour of Hell. The Hell in question obeys the rules of Janet Morris’s “Hell” series (if you are unfamiliar with the series it’s a must read). For those of you unfamiliar, Morris’s Hell is a shared world built more or less on the framework of Dante’s Inferno featuring the famous names of history. If you think it sounds like a downer, you’re mistaken. The purpose of this series isn’t to give you a lecture on morality, but rather form the framework for a series of discussions on torment, the legacy of historical figures, and...really awesome medieval (dare I say “Biblical”?) battles. There’s even a fair bit of humor thrown in for good measure.
It’s fun spending some time with the Grim Reaper as we get a first person account of his life and daily routine. His memories extend back only to his existence as Satan’s reaper, but occasionally he does have some interesting flashbacks to a time before that when he was something else? Maybe an angel? Grim doesn’t know, and he doesn’t particularly care as he’s grown accustomed to his lot. He’s got a job to perform, and the outcome is as certain as taxes (among other things).
It occurred to me once or twice throughout the novel that perhaps Grim is a little too likeable considering what he is. I think those are glimpses of Andrew Paul Weston’s personality shining through. However, a focused meditation on death would be something of a downer and this book is all about entertainment. Grim comes across as a pretty regular guy, despite the fact that he’ll sometimes depart a whole room of innocent bystanders because they happened to overhear a phone conversation. This kind of thing happens in Hell, and you can assume that those suffering that treatment have it coming.
If you’re a fan of history, Biblical artifacts, and mythology, this is a book you’re going to have a lot of fun with. Educated people are going to delight in seeing lesser known figures, items, and places referenced front and center for a change. This is a good book to read with some research material at hand. More than once I paused my reading to look up a name only to delight in an hour or two of discovery. I met some folks that were new, and learned a little more about things I was always aware of. In the end, however, I returned to Grim as his story is magnetic. Also, this is the type of character that comes after you if you leave a task undone.