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I have long been a fan of Shaun Hutson's work, although I felt that recently he'd "lost it." I didn't enjoy the more recent stories as much as I had the older ones (Renegades being a particular favourite). My lowest point came when I read Necessary Evil; I thought it was rubbish, without putting too fine a point on it. I recently took my summer holiday, and decided to get some books from the library to read on the plane/beach/at the villa/etcetera. I spotted Hell To Pay in a rack of paperbacks. I decided to give it a go. What did I have to lose? It's free to borrow from the library, so if it's rubbish; c'est la vie. It wasn't rubbish. It was great. A return to form. A return to the good old days of sex and violence, troubled maverick coppers and underlying supernatural terror.
Here's a summary of the plot and characters: DI Alan Fielding is investigating a series of child murders in the town of Kingsfield. Someone is snatching kids and giving them an overdose of heroin. Fielding can't figure it out; the children show no signs of being molested. This is a paedophile case unlike any other. Nikki and Jeff Reed have major money problems; they owe Max Tate, the local loan shark, and things are getting dangerous. Nikki's brother John comes up with a plan that will not only get Tate off their backs, it'll set them all up for life. David and Roma Todd's marriage is on the rocks. David is a wealthy record company executive, and is rarely at home. Roma is a college lecturer who's having an affair with one of her students. The only thing that keeps them together is their daughter, Kirsten. But Kirsten is ill. She has a disease that poses a threat, not only to her life, but to anyone who comes in direct contact with her. Hutson brings these three scenarios together superbly; there is tension on almost every page. I enjoyed the book so much because the characters are strong, believable and nicely rounded out. I also enjoyed that there are no real chapters to this book, instead each section is started with the time, allowing the reader to feel how quickly events are unfolding. I thought that this was a nice touch.
Hell To Pay retails at £6.99, which is the going rate for a paperback. I got it out of the library for free. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes horror fiction, particularly if you enjoy urban British horror. I also recommend you join your local library. You can find out more about Shaun Hutson and his books at www.shaunhutson.com
Nice review. I thought this was one of his better ones in recent years. I agree he has turned out some 'dogs' and once felt so ripped off that I told him what I thought on his website. Never got a reply, being a geezer he probably spends most of his days down the pub.
arnoldhenryrufus 17.07.2006 21:40
I will have to look out for his books sounds good - lyn x