FAN­TASY JOHN COOPER

Scottish Daily Mail - - BOOKS FICTION -

HELLCORP by Jonathan Whitelaw (Ur­bane Publi­ca­tions, £8.99) yoUnG au­thors are of­ten ad­vised to put a lit­tle of them­selves into their char­ac­ters, so what to make of Jonathan Whitelaw, whose hellcorp boasts the Devil as the cen­tral pro­tag­o­nist?

Whitelaw’s Auld nick is more darkly comic than prince of Dark­ness in this tale of Beelze­bub tak­ing hu­man form to solve an an­cient mur­der-mys­tery in mod­ern-day scot­land.

But this is no po­lice pro­ce­dural or who­dun­nit.

in­stead, it’s a dizzy­ing feat of the imag­i­na­tion in which the Devil wants a break from the lit­er­ally hellish work of tor­ment­ing sin­ners and the un­wor­thy.

To get some hol­i­day time, he set ups hell corp, a le­git­i­mate busi­ness that will keep the mis­ery tick­ing over while he puts his cloven hooves up.

Trou­ble is, God is not so keen and first sets the Devil on his quest among hu­man­ity.

The Devil has some malev­o­lent tricks – the open­ing scene sees him pay a spooky ham­mer house of hor­ror-style visit to the pope – but is rather less ter­ri­fy­ing when en­cased in a frail hu­man body.

And God is con­sid­er­ably less om­nipo­tent than you might ex­pect and also clue­less about what we hu­mans are get­ting up to.

Must be that free will he gave us…

one of the book’s best facets is the quirky re­la­tion­ship be­tween him up above and him down be­low.

The Devil is by turns iras­ci­ble with the cre­ator, frus­trated by him and not a lit­tle afraid too – prob­a­bly more than a bit like most of us mor­tals.

Whitelaw’s style is brisk and if he’s try­ing to make some deeper point about big busi­ness be­ing the work of, well, the Devil, he doesn’t be­labour it. There’s a scat­ter­ing of scots words – like salt, lovely when used spar­ingly – such as ‘stank’ for drain.

And you’ll likely find your­self rather ad­mir­ing the old goat – sym­pa­thy for the Devil, you might say.

Whitelaw is a reg­u­lar on Jan­ice Forsyth’s BBc Ra­dio scot­land af­ter­noon show and this is his se­cond novel.

it’s a pacy and witty romp through the meta­phys­i­cal realm and a hel­luva fun read.

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