Review of The Substitute by James Hatch
You know, I love books with twists. I remember back in college buying Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming--a humorous fantasy wherein the forces of evil are trying to win the centennial contest for control of the world's souls. I also remember feeling strange as I rooted for Satan while reading For Love of Evil, a more serious treatment of the fallen one. James Hatch's The Substitute has me feeling that way all over again.
In The Substitute the devil has met his match with hilarious results. Having grown up in the shadow of the wonderful city of Chicago, I particularly loved the beginning of the book. Ms. Havana's early life tangled with political corruption, a woman scorned, a hit man and the trials and tribulations of being a high school substitute teacher had me in stitches. The twists and turns that wind all those involved in Ms. Havana's untimely demise in their own personal hells were cringe-inducing, though eminently appropriate. Ms. Havana herself winds up in Hell, but it's the Devil who wonders after a while who exactly is in charge. He, like her formal male school charges, is fascinated with the delightfully twisted Ms. Havana. I don't want to give too much away here, but suffice to say, Ms. Havana finds herself in charge--"substituting" for the devil in Hell while he's on an extended field trip in our world.
The Substitute is a wild ride. I never really knew what was going to happen next and about three chapters in, I stopped trying to guess. It's rather like a roller coaster, hold on and just enjoy the ride. There were a few moments that made me cringe, and a few that shocked me. Then again, that was what Hatch was going for. If I had to come up with something to critique, I'd have to say the sheer speed of the story is as much a benefit as a detraction. I flew through wanting to know what happened next, but occasionally, especially at the beginning needed to look back at the characters. There are a lot of names bandied about in the beginning. However, that's a good thing too. I didn't want to slow down!
So, if you like books with twists and turns and the novelty of feeling sorry for Satan, definitely check out The Substitute! It's available in eBook format from Amazon.com and from Solsticepublishing.com.