Written by Duane Swierczynski — In Hell and Gone, the sequel to the award-winning Fun and Games, Duane Swierczynski picks up Charlie Hardy at the end of the events in the previous book. After an introduction to the situation, we are dragged into a new story of secret organisations, psychological experiments and the consequences of poor choices made with good intentions.
Charlie, or ‘Unkillable Chuck’, is abducted, drugged, nursed back to some semblance of health and made the warden of a secret prison all, supposedly, as a means to repay the organisation he worked to thwart in the events of Fun and Games. Naturally the situation throws up more questions and mysteries than it does answers. The supervisor of the facility is just a voice, the prisoners have no names, the guards have secret pasts, and any attempt to leave will result in the death of everyone inside.
Swierczynski is also a comic book writer, and this shows through somewhat in the imaginative structure and delivery of the plotline. Charlie works hard to understand the situation, but his actions often result in worsening conditions. However, he does over time begin to discover and deduce elements of the truth. Ultimately, the secrets of the prison tie back to the mysterious Accident People from the first volume of the Charlie Hardy trilogy. Here though, the hidden enemy expands into an underground hierarchy of seemingly boundless power.
As the story concludes, Charlie wreaks his usual brand of mayhem before he must face the terrible truth of how much control he really has. This underground America has a plan for him, and the novel resolves with a set up for the third volume.
Hell and Gone is an excellent addition to the Charlie Hardy stories and progresses the tension and the characters. It suffers somewhat from what all middle books suffer in that the story neither truly begins nor ends within its pages, however the amount and manner of background revelation by the author creates a satisfying read, even for anyone who hasn’t read Fun and Games.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars
$10.19 for the US paperback
$7.24 for the US Kindle edition
Got a signed copy on the way. Just have to follow up on Fun and Games.
RIVER BOTTOM BLUES–crime novel for blues fans due out 2012