If you like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, you will enjoy this new series from John Connolly. The author is well-known for his popular Charlie Parker crime stories, which are about as gritty and hard-boiled as anything in the genre. Here he tries his hand at humorous supernatural tales, perhaps aimed at young adults but good for older readers, too. They are notably sparse in belly laughs (though not without occasional chuckles), and that’s where Connolly really surprised me. Turns out he’s a dab hand at whimsy that never becomes cloying, and deftly sketching comic characters who delight and stay with the reader.
Samuel Johnson is a young teen who accidentally witnesses the opening of a portal into Hell (powered by a bit of carelessness at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN), and along with his dachshund Boswell (of course) is drawn into events of world-shaking import. Gently satirical portrayals of small town English types generate most of the laughs as they take on fearsome demons with garden rakes and a hideously potent and vile beer known as Spiggit’s Old Peculiar.
The Infernals takes a decidedly more epic and darker turn, with the action set in Hell itself and the stakes even higher than in the first volume. Now Samuel must face the perils of the realm of the Great Malevolence himself, and there are truly frightening moments. The power of a friendship that stretches across the dimensions proves a match even for the essence of Evil. The last pages hint that Hell has not heard the last of Samuel Johnson and Boswell. We hope not. (submitted by JW)
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