There’s something addicting about Matthew Hughes’ “The Damned Busters”, the first book in his ‘To Hell and Back‘ series featuring insurance actuary Chesney Arnstruther. After accidentally summoning a demon and causing the legions in Hell to go on strike, Chesney strikes a strange deal with the Devil and becomes novice superhero the Actionary. Well, at least for two hours every day with the help of the rum-guzzling demon Xaphan, a weasel-faced demon who’s watched one too many Cagney movies.
There’s something addicting about this book… even while there’s something not good about it.
I realize how that sounds, but I don’t know any other way to say it. I’ve been struggling with this feeling the entire book. The story is decent and clever, with a humorous style that channels Douglas Adams without truly capturing the absurdity that perfectly captured the essence life itself that Adams seemed to effortlessly put down upon the page throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.
Perhaps just as Chesney is lost within the world of his comic book idol, Malc Turner aka The Driver, his adventures as the Actionary and the events of the book from the moment he summons a demon on, are intended to emulate that comic book atmosphere with characters that are almost bland in their cartoonish, stereotype roles.
When he smashed his finger with the hammer, did drawing blood cause him to summon a demon, or pass out and dream all of this? Chesney does seem like someone who might faint at the sight of blood.
Good thing “The Damned Busters” is just addictive enough and ends on a cliffhanger that I can’t help but be interested in the second of the trilogy, “Costume Not Included”.