So, without further ado, Hell's Fire by Chris Simms. First of all, the title. I love all things demonic or demon-inspired so the red inked Hell's Fire really caught my eye. When I realised it was a crime novel, my thoughts immediately turned to arson even before I read the blurb which mentioned the torching of churches and links to satanism. It also has a sub-title 'There will be no forgiveness' which actually conjured up a few themes and can be taken several ways that are all relevant to the book. The first theme conjured up in my mind was 'vengeance for crimes both real or perceived' and its a theme held dear in a few of the character's hearts. Another theme it suggests now that I've read the book are thematic questions such as: 'What would it do to a person to know their crimes, or the crimes of a loved one, will never be forgiven?' 'Is there such a thing as an unforgivable crime?' and 'Sometimes, it is better to forgive'. Without giving too much away, forgiveness is as much a driving theme as the more obvious vengeance plot with attempts to reconcile family members over past arguments and a man struggling to deal with the idea of an unforgiving God.
The novel also explores a contentious issue in society today about freedom of religion. This adds richness to the story because the author ensures that this issue is explored by a number of characters in different ways and they each have their own perspective on the matter. A rift in a family between a staunch Catholic and her burgeoning Wiccan daughter. The protagonist's issues with religion in general - whether its pagans, satanism, or organised religion - and how sometimes religious beliefs can lead to murder (or the establishment of refuges for the homeless) all weave together to challenge preconceptions without the author ever intruding by saying that any one of these religions is outright wrong. There are examples of people doing immoral things in the name of religion, whether its due to their fanaticism or simply a calloud desire to exploit the spiritual needs of others, but it's very much a sense of individuals doing this. It's not about any one religion being *evil*. It's about people. That helps keep it from getting preachy.
I also like the specificity in descriptions. This book oozes authenticity because he always nails the little details about arson investigation. I couldn't say whether it's true or false, whether his research is wrong or right, but it feels right because he's confident enough to be unambiguous in his descriptions. I really like that.
There are other good things about it, but I think I'll leave it there. Until we meet again, bloggers and bloggettes....