We like a bit of dark crime at the Hothouse and Hell is Empty is Conrad Williams’s third slice of ‘London Noir’ to feature ex-copper turned private investigator Joel Sorrell. Hell is Empty finds Sorrell just released from a six month stay in hospital after being sliced up at the conclusion of the previous Sorrell thriller Sonata of the Dead. Recuperating at home Sorrell is given a cold case by his Scotland Yard buddy Ian Mawker, but before he can get his teeth into the ‘Tower Block killings’ an old flame asks him to investigate the abduction of her baby.
Just as his investigation unearths a whole bunch more questions Joel discovers that the violent psychopath who murdered his wife has just escaped from prison and is out looking to settle a very personal score.
Dark and gritty Hell is Empty is a beautifully written and compelling crime caper packed with razor-sharp dialogue and witty one-liners worthy of Raymond Chandler, well a sweary Raymond Chandler who enjoys The Inbetweeners maybe. Sorrell is delightfully world-weary and cynical detective and the rest of the uniquely unusual cast are equally well-defined from the bare knuckle fighting celebrity chef to the martial arts assassin with a lethal razor-sharp fan who doubles as a nightclub bouncer, while Williams’s dark seedy underbelly of London is as atmospheric and tangible as the Edinburgh of Ian Rankin.
Would I read more Joel Sorrell mysteries? definitely would!
A cracking crime caper I give Hell is Empty at 666/666
Hell is Empty is published by Titan Books price £7.00 UK, $14.95 US, $19.95 Canada