Title: The Devil’s Detective
Rating: 4 Stars
This is a standard story of an detective investigating a murder. The murderer is deviously clever, there is a bureaucracy that hinders the detective (Thomas Fool) at every step. Friends of his are murdered. He is nearly murdered and ends up severely injured several times (but never not quite enough to stop him). There are people that give him dubious help with hidden motives. Of course, there is the final battle to the death where justice triumphs.
The tweak on the formula, as you might have guessed by the title, is that all of this takes place in Hell.
This is not your father’s Hell (or even Dante’s). Dante’s Hell, with its circles and people eternally damned to certain, specific, horrific punishment fitting their sin in life, is long a thing of the past. It is beyond the memory of anyone still in Hell, with only dim long lost folk tales and rotting edifices of architecture still remaining.
Now, Hell is a place of small hope. People now come into Hell having no idea of what they did in their previous life to deserve being in Hell, so they have no idea how to redeem themselves. Inhabitants of Hell are very occasionally, apparently randomly elevated to Hell. Therefore, the inhabitants, although knowing they have no chance, gather at these Elevations, with just a glimmer of hope that amid the sea of lost souls, they will be selected.
People fall in love in Hell, but must conceal it because they know that it will be taken from them. Of course, all is known in Hell, so it will be taken from them. Fool secretly enjoys his job, so all efforts are made to make his job as hopeless and miserable as possible.
This is an interesting notion.
When people think of Hell, it’s usually thought of as a static place (very much like Dante). You are punished according to your sin and you spend eternity being punished.
However, the human condition is that eventually we get inured to everything. Punishment, no matter how severe, over time, will become something we grow accustomed to.
Therefore, to truly eternally punish a sinner, Hell itself must occasionally change. The current iteration of Hell cruelly plays on the inability of people to give up hope, thus eternally punishing them by quashing that hope.
It’s clear that this is now played out. The sinners have become inured to having their hopes crushed. Hell is due for another change. This need for change is the invisible force that is propelling Fool in his investigations. It’s clear that, by the end, his investigation, through his unknowing efforts, is bringing about this new Hell which will bring fresh new misery, thus punishments, to the denizens of Hell.
Although I found the plot itself pedestrian and the description of Hell to grow repetitive over time, I found this perspective on Hell and how it must adapt to eternity a refreshing, provoking idea.