When confronted with an accidentally summoned demon offering him his hearts desires for the low-low price of his soul, Chesney Anstruther makes the one decision you wouldn't expect. He says no. Thus begins The Damned Busters, a fun little romp by Matthew Hughes and the first in his To Hell and Back trilogy. Chesney is by all accounts a nerdy loser, an actuary who has no real friends, no love life, a tiny apartment and his only passions being numbers, pornography, and comic books. Yet his chance encounter with the demons of hell starts him on a strange and curious path to finally fulfilling his greatest dream: Chesney gets to don a cape and cowl and start fighting crime as the heroic Actionary. But when your powers come from a negotiation with the denizens of hellfire and brimstone, not everything goes as you plan, and it turns out other people can broker deals with the devil for their more nefarious dreams.
Matthew Hughes' book is humorous, light-hearted, and irreverent in its bizarre mish-mashing of Faustian and caped crusader tropes. While low on character development (especially in terms of the few female characters of the book), the pace is swift and the dynamics of heaven, hell, and humanity keep the book interesting. Indeed, when the politics of the divine and demonic are front and center, the book is at its most thoughtful and original, Chesney's crime fighting career is sadly an exercise in common chauvinistic male fantasy. Overall, however, Hughes' writing provides an amply quick and fun read. The premise has a lot of promise. The first sequel, Costume Not Included, is already published and the final volume of the trilogy is on the way.
Tim @ Central