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“To different minds, the same world is a hell and a heaven”
In the quiet idyll of Kingsfield three separate lives are heading for a collision course with potentially disastrous consequences. Detective Inspector Alan Fielding is baffled when the body of a young boy is washed up on the shores of the local reservoir. There are no signs of abuse or mistreatment just one puncture wound where a fatal dose of heroin has been injected, the same as in two previous child deaths that show all the signs of being carried out by the same dangerous killer, a killer that Fielding has to stop before he seeks another young victim. Worst still, all of the three dead children show up on a paedophile website which leads Fielding to believe the killer is a depraved sociopath, who photographs and films his young victims before killing them. In a nearby housing estate Jeff and Nikki Reed are at their wits end after borrowing twenty thousand pounds from a ruthless loan shark that they realise they cannot repay. The loan shark reminds them that he wants his money back and plenty of interest with the aid of his hard men which leaves Jeff and Nikki in little doubt that non payment will end with only one outcome, their deaths. Meanwhile in the affluent part of Kingsfield, David and Roma Todd are having a difficult time in their relationship; David is always at work as a successful record company boss leaving Roma to look after their terminally ill daughter Kirsten and lecture part time at the nearby college. It seems the millionaires’ life is not all it is cracked up to be as Roma seeks a little extra marital fun with a student whom she teaches. Three separate lives that are destined never to meet until Jeff Reed, with the aid of his criminal brother in law, has an idea that will get the loan sharks off his back forever and put plenty of money in his pocket. Unfortunately for all concerned, the plan that he thinks is fool proof puts everyone concerned in a lot of danger. As the tagline of the book says, “when these three desperate people’s worlds collide, there’ll be hell to pay……..”
“Sin makes its own hell and goodness its own heaven”
I simply love good British authors who are at the top of their game and Shaun Hutson very much falls into this category. Just like James Herbert and Stephen Leather, Hutson really knows how to bring the characters in his books to life, I found myself empathising with the good guys and wishing ill of the bad guys all within the space of a page or two. Some of the violence in Hell to Pay is a little strong and I did find myself wincing at the descriptiveness of much of it, not least an episode with a motorbike chain and a person’s pierced eyebrow! That said, the violence was very much in keeping with the story and did add to the whole impact of the characters and their despair in trying to get what they wanted at any cost. The story is fast moving and not at all obvious in its twists and turns, this again is half the battle when writing in the mystery and thriller genre. Ultimately though, Hell to Pay is just a damn fine book by a damn fine British Author, I actually found the pace of my reading slowed as I neared the end of the book such was my unwillingness for the book to end, and not too many books have that effect on me. A lot of the books appeal to me was the fact that it was set in Britain, all be it the fictional town of Kingsfield. This gave me a stronger feel for the whole geography of the story and the ways in which the characters moved around, not least when they frequently got stuck in traffic jams or trapped in the midst of the school run while going about their often shady business. Throughout the story, Hutson makes his characters real, his scenarios believable and his stories completely engrossing, kudos to him for that.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven”
I really cannot fault this book and so give it the full five stars. Readers who are not familiar with the mystery and thriller genre could do far worse than use Shaun Hutson as a starting point. Yes he can be violent, yes there are swear words and sex aplenty, but yes he is in my opinion one of the best authors of the genre. If you are not too squeamish this is a book well worthy of a read. I just wish he would write a lot more books to keep my appetite for his work sated.