HELL'S FIRE, Chris Simms

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

HELL'S FIRE is the fourth book in this Manchester based series featuring DI Jon Spicer, although this is the first book in the group that I've read.  An error of omission on my part that I'm going to have to do something about!  

As you'd expect with a story that concentrates on the torching of churches, there are a lot of religious elements to this book.  Although organised religion and the satanic ritualism as part of the church destruction is only part of a complex intertwining of religious elements.  Satanic ritualism at the scenes connects to a Satanic styled rock band.  The rock band connects to a new age college.  The college connects to the victims - both of the fire and of the murders that keep happening.  And for Jon, in a more personally confrontational manner, the new age college leads to his sister's newfound belief in Pagan religion, and conflict with their own, ultra-conservative and devout mother.

All of these connections, and the way that the investigation circles around the churches, the way that the churches - the buildings and the institutions - affect daily life in Manchester, and in Jon's own family - create a sinister, subtle feeling of menace that infects the entire story.

There is a lot of the personal in HELL'S FIRE.  Simms has pulled his character's lives firmly into the investigation, and whilst that might prove a little distracting for some readers, it could also provide a real connection for others.  To be honest I couldn't decide what I thought about it - I found Jon's personal life a bit overwrought and overblown at points, but that could have been because the plot itself was proving quite involving and very intriguing and I was getting impatient with the family stuff sometimes "getting in the way".  Having said that, it's a temporary distraction and the intricacies of the HELL'S FIRE plot held up all the way through the book to an intriguing conclusion.

Before starting HELL'S FIRE I was aware that UK Bookseller Waterstone's selected Chris Simms as one of their '25 Authors for the Future' as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations.  After reading the book you can see why.  This isn't the most flattering portrayal of life in Manchester, but it is certainly compelling.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

The deliberate torching of a church creates outrage across Manchester.  And when a charred corpse and satanic symbols are found in the smoking ruins, DI Jon Spicer and the city's Major Incident Team are called in.

Jon Spicer quickly finds himself drawn into the depths of a horrifying underworld he didn't know existed.  Soon, fresh killings bring revelations that those responsible are prepared to commit unspeakable acts of evil in homage to their God.

Review HELL'S FIRE, Chris Simms
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Blog Currently Reading - Hell's Fire, Chris Simms
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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