It's 1854 and Edgy Taylor's an orphan who collects dog muck for use at Mr Talon's tannery. Although Talon has given Edgy a home, he also beats him and constantly sets him riddles to learn. Worse, Edgy sometimes sees Talon as being a demon with huge horns and red skin, but has learnt not to tell anyone in case they think he's mad.
One night when Edgy believes that Talon is about to kill him, he's rescued by an old man with a strange weapon that turns Talon into stone. The man, Mr Janus, takes Edgy and his dog, Henry, to the Royal Society of Daemonologie where Edgy discovers that not only are demons real, but Mr Janus is on a quest to find one of the most feared - Moloch, the demon who defeated Satan and wants to start a war with heaven. Soon Edgy finds himself in a deadly game of riddles and mayhem where his own life is at risk ...
A companion novel to the critically acclaimed MORTLOCK, there's some overlap of minor characters from MORTLOCK but this is very much a stand-alone story.
It's easy to root for the intrepid Edgy. Lonely and unloved, he hasn't known much kindness, which makes his gratitude to Mr Janus so understandable and while he's quick-witted and hard working, he's also capable of weakness and selfishness. This humanity makes him very believable. His relationship with his dog, Henry is well portrayed and I love the way the dog constantly tries to defend him.
The real stars of the book though are the demons that Edgy encounters. My favourite was Slouch, a demon of sloth who's supposed to be the Society's butler but who really can't be bothered. The idea of linking demons to sins is well executed and I particularly liked the fact that gradually they all succumb to the sins they seek to promulgate and become mortal.
Mayhew once again incorporates traditional folk song lyrics and proverbs into the text, which give the story both an added sense of the macabre and ground it in English tradition. The story's filled with twists and turns and although there's a lot of death and mayhem, Mayhew also packs in a lot of dry humour. It's slightly slow to get going, but once it hits its stride it kept me gripped until the end. More please.