Twelve-year-old Jinx is hopeless at being evil. Which is a bit of a problem when you're Lucifer's youngest son. But when Jinx runs away from Pandemonium, the walled city he's lived in all his life, he bumps into dead girl Tommy - who's been sent to Hell for accidentally feeding her nasty uncle to a circus lion - and unearths a conspiracy that could up-end the entire underworld.
Cue shenanigans involving carnivorous carousel horses, death-trap-riddled libraries and hungry quicksand. Now the fate of the realm rests in the hands of its most unlikely demon and a girl who shouldn't be in Hell at all...
The concept of Satan having a hapless son is not a particularly new one, but never has it been as funny as it is in Tatum Flynn's The D'Evil Diaries. In fact, Adam Sandler would have been much better off handing over the co-writing duties on the truly dire Little Nicky to Tatum Flynn - it would have been a hell of a lot funnier if he had (pun intended)!
Jinx D'Evil, the main character of this book, is the son of Lucifer, but he is a pretty poor excuse for a demon. Only he could make the monstrous Nemesis Tree in The Poison Gardens blossom with beautiful pink (and totally harmless) flowers. And the less said about his flying abilities the better. His poor father has tried everything he can think of to make his son a better demon, including sending to various points in Earth's history to learn from some of the planets most despicable villains. But all Jinx seems to do is make them good. With his self-esteem at an all-time low, and before he gets sent to a military academy, Jinx does what many other children his age have thought about doing - he runs away from home, and stumbles straight into a conspiracy that threatens the whole of hell, and possibly heaven as well.
Jinx is aided and abetted in his adventures by Tommy, a young girl who has somehow ended up in hell by mistake (even Lucifer has morals - he doesn't accept children into his realm). Tommy is everything that Jinx isn't - kick-ass brave, clever, resourceful - and the relationship that develops between them as the learn to trust each other (or not, as the case may be at times) is both hilarious and heartwarming.
The D'Evil Diaries is comedy adventure at its best, and it will have children giggling all the way from page one to the final chapter. It is great to see that the author does not patronise her readers - she has obviously done her research and/or knows her mythology and classical depictions of hell very well, and she uses these to great effect without ever dumbing things down for her young audience. Where some funny books for this age group can fall foul of too much emphasis on laughs and not enough on plot, The D'Evil Diaries strikes that perfect balance between the two.
The hilarious and irreverent manner with which the author treats her theology-inspired subject will no doubt have those 'good'(?) people of the Westboro Baptist Church rattling off fire-and-brimstone hate emails by their hundreds, but I'm sure that Ms Flynn can give as good as she gets if she so chooses. She should team up with the brilliant Barry Hutchison, and other authors who have received such missives and find someone to publish an anthology of them. I think it would make a great Christmas stocking filler!
My thanks go to the fab people at Orchard Books for sending me a copy of the book to read.