Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar… Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels… Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding. The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.
Hellzapoppin’ is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. We have seen the characters in previous books in the series, but they were minor characters, and the events in the previous books they appeared in don’t really have an effect on the events in this one (I would recommend reading the others anyway).
This one did take a little more getting into than the first couple (probably about the same as Godsquad though), and it had less of an action focus.
I did like seeing the image of what Hell might be like though- again a little bit of a poke at bureaucracy that we first saw in Clovenhoof. I also likes the friendship between Ratspud and Stephen. It seems like an unlikely friendship- a monk and a demon, but actually they ended up bringing out the best in each other.
I also liked some of the odd inventions in hell, and the inclusion of Escher and C.S Lewis. If you know the work of Escher you can probably imagine how hellish a piece of architecture based on his work could be. C.S Lewis is known for being a Christian and his Christian writings so it’s interesting to see him here, ‘on loan’ from Heaven.
I enjoyed the comedy of the events at the monastery, even the dark humour which isn’t always to my taste.
Part of the reason I picked up Hellzapoppin’ was because of my loss of reading mojo, which I thought this might get through, and I was right.