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Surprisingly slight plot and lack of an emotional core
on 1 August 2007
I found the latest in the Nightside series to be something of a chore and the reason is an ironic one. In the previous books, I've been dying to have Green write more about his world and his ideas because I've been largely of the view that they needed to be expanded upon. In Hell To Pay however, I felt that because the story itself was too slight - essentially 'find the missing girl and collect reward' - there was too much padding whereby Green spends too much time focusing on the social structure and social dichotomy of the Nightside's upper echelons and lowest scum.
Like I said, this is a 'find the girl' story and whilst the jacket blurb hints that this will be more of a straightforward gum-shoe operation, it's disappointing that Green still shoehorns in Taylor's gift when he needs to move the plot along. To find Griffin's granddaughter Melissa, Taylor has to look into the family history - a mysterious one involving a deal with the devil - and into the relationship between the family members. There are some interesting scenes that come up along the way - I particularly liked the Arcadian Project, which gives Taylor the perfect vision of his parents and I also liked the characters of Bruin Bear and Seagoat, who brought some much welcomed humour to the plot. I also think that Green does a good job at characterising both the distinct characters of the Griffin family members and how they have each been damaged by the power and wealth that the Griffin's deal brought them.
Green touches on the power struggles within the Nightside and hints at a future story arc in that Walker seems to have found himself some new Authorities substitutes to support his exercise of control. I'd have liked to see more about how the Nightside is rebuilding itself after it's near destruction by Lilith, but perhaps this is something that will be developed further in the future books.
The denouement to the plot is a little ho-hum despite Green's best attempts at subverting a very old cliche. In particular, it was very difficult for me to care about Melissa's fate because she doesn't appear in the book and when other characters talk about her, it's only to say how little they knew her. As a result, I felt that the ending lacked emotional tension and in particular, robbed the final sacrifice of the poingnancy it needed. Saying that, Green does have some emotional core via Polly's character, one who I would have liked to see more of on the page.