Friday, January 9, 2009

"Hell to Pay" by Simon R. Green

I've been a fan of Green's Nightside series since the beginning, and was curious how he'd keep it going after the Lilith War of the previous book. After all, the first six entries are pretty much all about John Taylor, the man who can find anything, and his attempts to escape his mother's clutches. Lilith tried to turn him to her dark side, and when that wasn't going to work, she tried to kill him. He's been battling her forces and others who don't want him to destroy the Nightside and fulfill a prophecy for so long, what more could there be?

Well, there's this book, "Hell to Pay", and there's John's actual job, that of private investigator. Which is exactly the role he plays and which he does very, very well. The book opens with John being summoned to Griffin Hall by none other than Jeremiah Griffin, one of the most powerful immortals in the Nightside (now that Lilith and the Authorities are gone, that is). His granddaughter, Melissa, is missing, and he fears that she's been kidnapped. He hires John to find her, but gives him an almost impossible deadline; she must be located and brought back to the Hall before she turns 18, which is in 24 hours. Complicating matters is something, or someone, that is blocking John's Sight, thus guaranteeing that he's going to have to do this the old-fashioned way...

John takes turn interview the various family members, starting with the Griffin's wife, Mariah. She's immortal through her marriage to Jeremiah, and it was her decision to have children, something the Griffin never wanted (there are rumors that a grandchild turning 18 will bring about his death, and his soul will go to the Devil), but she grew tired of the whole thing quickly. She had the children to be "fashionable", which seems to be her only concern.

The twins, William and Eleanor, both have their own secrets, and they both resent their father greatly. Knowing how he felt about grandchildren, they both married and had their children in great secrecy, only presenting them to the Griffin when it was a fait accompli. At that point, the Griffin insisted that his grandchildren be raised at the Hall, which isn't what his own children had in mind at all. The best laid plans of mice and men, indeed. William's wife, Gloria, and Eleanor's husband, Marcel, both have to be interviewed, too. John learns more about each member of the family, but gets no closer to the whereabouts of Melissa.

And then there's the grandson, Paul. He's prehaps the most intriguing character, and also one of the saddest, for reasons I won't go into here (can't give away the plot!) He knows a lot more than he's willing to tell John, and he's definitely got his own secrets. In the end, he's probably the most heroic of the Griffin family. Because this being John Taylor, even without his Sight, you know he's going to find the girl. And there's going to be a showdown, of course.

Overall, I thought this was a nice transition in the series. There was still plenty of action and our usual cast of miscreants made appearances, mostly notably Dead Boy. I should've seen right away why John's sight wasn't working, and others might pick it up right off, but it was a good twist. I'm glad to say that the Nightside is still a dark and dangerous place, and that John appears to have many more adventures to come.

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