The Devil’s Hairball – Peter Caffery
Reviewed by Ben Walker
Improper. That’s how to sum up Peter Caffrey’s raucous horror/comedy The Devil’s Hairball, but this is a review so I’d better use a few more words.
After a pantless night with a Virgin Mary statue, our hero Victor wakes the next morning to find his wife and child covered in thick, black hair. Convinced that his family are cursed, he seeks advice from the local clergy, who recommend a journey of penance. To save his loved ones from their hairy fate, he must retrieve seven holy relics, with help from a talking dog, a kindly prostitute and a lot of anal insertions.
This book wastes no time in setting its sordid stall out, chucking jokes and bizarre situations at you from page one. The feel is similar to a Monty Python movie; in fact, this could almost be a spiritual successor to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Characters spew insults and sarcastic retorts with every opportunity, and dirty humour drips from every page. One memorable pratfall sends our hero nose-first into someone’s naked bum hole. In fact, so many gags are focused around back passages that you could probably claim to be a proctologist by the end.
Luckily, there’s some character development to go along with the barrage of cheeky gags. Victor is his own worst enemy at times, beset with guilt, regret and inappropriate thoughts, letting others string him along at times. Other times, he’s just a dolt, well-meaning but dim, only not in a charming way. You might not always root for him, but you always want to see how he’ll get out of the increasingly weird situations he finds himself in. His quest may be to prove himself to the clergy, but a colourful collection of weirdos make it hard for him to stay penitent.
Working against Victor are a mix of violent, self-righteous clergymen lead by the evil Cardinal Dismas, a man who surrounds himself with cretins (not through choice) and boys dressed as cherubs (very much by choice). Other than the clergy, Victor has to contend with shape-shifting demons, mad regenerating triplets, angry crows and a legion of mechanical replicants, to name but a few.
It sounds like a lot, and it is, but the book happily drifts from encounter to encounter at a fairly rapid pace. What bogs it down are the jokes, which by the halfway point start to get a bit predictable, and the book then drifts into more bizarre territory in order to keep your interest. As imaginative as the story is, and as entertainingly rude as things get, you can never take Victor’s plight that seriously. With no real peril to speak of, it’s hard to stay curious about his fate until the end game, where the last few chapters ramp up the drama enough to make things juicy again.
On that wet note, I’d say that if you’re looking for some Very British Filth with a dash of adventure, it’s worth cramming The Devil’s Hairball down your reading pipe. Just don’t expect it to be lodged there forever.
The Devil’s Hairball
When Victor Holycross commits an act of heinous sacrilege at the Festival of the Blessed Virgin, he unwittingly brings forth a curse that transforms his wife and daughter into living hair balls. To seek absolution and lift the hairy plague, a penance is given: the recovery of stolen religious relics.With a time frame of forty days and forty nights and a bicycle as his sole form of transport, Victor finds himself helped (and often hindered) by a one-legged whore, a talking dog with strange sexual proclivities and an attack-nun. Thrust into a maelstrom of demonic confrontations, unholy alliances and duplicitous relationships, he soon discovers that the world is a darker place than he anticipated.The Devil’s Hairball is an absurdist journey through a bizarro landscape, riddled with black humour, twisted characters and an unhealthy serving of spite and malice.
A horror fan and writer since who knows when, Ben started dabbling in online reviews around 2001. Nowadays he has a booktube channel, which features bizarre book reviews and further nonsense. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably looking at GIFs and eating Mexican food.
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