It is possible to measure a book by how engaging it is, by how much it takes you out of yourself. And there is no greater competition for this than grief. I have, to put it bluntly, had a bastard few months, capped off with the death of a much loved companion cat. This book provided respite from all that turmoil – and for that alone it gets my praise.
But its strengths are far greater and more universal than being a convenient distraction. From the very beginning, you know you are going to be in for fun. The blend of homely everyday life and a cast of demons, imps, and angels of all grades and colour works extremely well (and the image of a demon enjoying a nice cup of tea and a biscuit won me over straight away). The characters are subtly drawn and develop in realistic fashion (with scope for future appearances) and despite the supernatural setting are preoccupied with small creature comforts just as one would expect.
The story moves along at a great pace without stops on the way for pages of explanatory text (as many writers of supernatural subjects are wont to do). This is refreshing, to say the least. All too often, the likes of demons and angels are simply used as forces to push an angsty character about a shaky plot like some manic pinball. Here, they are integral to the plot.
The style is light. By which I mean, the book is written with a light touch. It is a clever book without flaunting its cleverness. It is funny without trying. It is engaging because it contains sympathetic characters and has an intriguing storyline. And it stays true to itself throughout – for whilst it is a tale of demons and angels, it never steps beyond the slightly down at heel world in which it the story takes place.
I sincerely hope that Harold has more adventures and that Rachel Green goes on to write many more books. She clearly has a great talent for this sort of work (and for art work as well, as the superb cover is one of her watercolours). Indeed, the only thing that bemuses me is why this was not put out by a major publisher and why studios are not falling over themselves to buy the film rights.