Department Zero by Paul Crilley
Department Zero by Paul Crilley feels like a slightly madcap adventure with a liberal dash of bizarre and a sprinkling of surreal. It’s an odd mash up, the baby of Lovecraft and Men in Black.
As the story begins we are introduced to Harry Priest. I confess I didn’t envy Harry his day job – his role has a very fancy name but basically he cleans up after any and all sort of deaths. Murders, suicide, natural causes. And sometimes it’s been weeks before the body is found. When the book begins Harry has been called to his next job. On arrival at the address things seem a little amiss and it doesn’t appear that the police have been at the scene to examine any potential wrong doing. However, before Harry has a chance to call the office (or the police) a group of characters arrive on the scene, saying they’re from ICD (Interstitial Crime Department) and claiming precedence and sending Harry and his colleague on his way. As it happens, this was the highlight of Harry’s day, from hereon in things are going to get seriously bad and Harry’s world is going to wind up in turmoil.
Without giving too much away about the plot lets just say that there are a number of artefacts and there are a number of groups interested in said artefacts. So interested in fact that they’ll go to just about any length to get their grabby hands on these items. The problem is – these items could unleash a force that would unravel the universe, unravel multiple universes and in fact parallel universes. So Harry, simply needs to change job, go to work, retrieve items, prevent world destruction, all in time to be home for tea and a spot of telly! Of course the job at the ICD plummets a little as soon as Harry joins and he ends up in Department Zero – just about the worst possible demotion you can imagine and seemingly he’s back on the clean up crew again.
I enjoyed this, it was highly entertaining. There was quite literally never a dull moment and in fact that could be probably one of the only issues I had with the book, that occasionally I found myself thinking ‘for goodness sake give Harry a break, or me! But, yeah, the action is none stop and in fact I thought the opening chapters were incredibly gripping – the scene with the spiders, I nearly had kittens (which oddly enough would have been quite fitting at the time and probably wouldn’t have been quite as surreal as some of the scenes in this book).
The writing was very easy and persuasive and the characters very easy to get along with. Well, when I say characters there are primarily two – Harry and Graves – but they had a very readable double act – good cop bad cop feel if you will.
The setting is creative and awash with creatures. There is no shortage of tentacles and beasts, gods, demons, rips in time, battles, dreamscapes – it’s difficult to know whether to say it’s fun – but it is. It’s a romp. A riot. Creative. Imaginative and entertaining.
There’s a lot of potential for Harry and Graves to have more adventures although I have no idea if that is the author’s plan. If more books were in the offing though I would certainly read on.