In this first volume in an epic urban fantasy series, an American federal agent has to deal with hell itself.
The protagonist of Walsh’s ambitious debut novel is a depressed, down-on-his-luck Diplomatic Security Service agent named Jubal Stone who’s been “effectively benched” by his boss, who thinks little of him. Stone was once a special investigator for the Office of Asset Recovery (“a deliberately obscure name for what sometimes turns out to be very nasty work”), but now he’s bitterly resigned to life in Norvell Township, Michigan, where he seems very much out of the loop. As a result, he’s cultivated a kind of big-picture cynicism: “Earth itself was no more than a rock with a bubble of air surrounding it,” he thinks at one point, “a tenuous condition that supposedly existed at the whim of some unknowable and unreachable God.” God suddenly seems much more reachable when a supernatural meteor crashes to Earth bearing a fallen Angel—a mystical being who quickly becomes the object of Stone’s new job for the agency. He’s partnered again with his former mentor, Thaddeus Coleman, and tasked with safely delivering the Angel to none other than Satan himself. The pairing of Jubal and Thaddeus is one of the strongest aspects of the book, as neither is a typical hero: They were chosen for the job, one character says, because the agency had nobody else available (“They’re both capable, but neither has been on top of their game for a while now”). What follows is an extremely winning variation on the formulaic model of Dan Brown’s 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code that offers a compelling combination of interagency thriller and supernatural fantasy. As various agents either help Stone or hunt him, Walsh handles the action scenes in a smooth and professional manner, and the dialogue is similarly efficient. The author also pays his readers the bedrock compliment of taking his absurd premise—a secret partnership between the U.S. federal government and hell—completely seriously, which works wonders.
A powerhouse first volume in a supernatural-thriller series.