Sympathy for the Devil
By Holly Lisle
Review by Paul Melko

Capsule Summary: Hell let loose in South Carolina provides the humorous setting for this worthwhile tale of love and damnation.

Dayne Kuttner says a prayer, a solemn and sincere prayer, a ten on the scale of heaven missives, and God decides to grant the boon. Dayne, mournful for her deceased husband, certain that he is rotting in Hell, asks God to give all the souls in a Hell a second chance. In his own way, God allows it; a number of damned souls equal to one-tenth the population of the state are released into South Carolina.

Lucifer sees this as the opportunity of the millennia, and sends his second-in-command, Agonostis, to set up shop in South Carolina. God has imposed rules, of course, but those rules don't forbid the tempting of mortals to their damnation. Lucifer gives Agonostis one additional task as well: the damning of Dayne Kuttner's soul. A soul capable of moving God with a prayer would certainly be worth a lot in Hell.

This is a fun novel. Lisle has taken her thesis and run with it for what it's worth. The details she's put in, such as Hell's bill served to Dayne when she accidently squashes a gremlin or Hell's Muzak (an all-tuba version of Herman's Hermit's Henry the Eighth), make the story.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the story is the protagonist. Lisle sets herself an arduous task in characterizing this ultra-pure nurse whose prayers are answered. Unfortunately she comes across as rather bland for a good portion of the novel. Although I appreciate her and like her, I am never moved by her and my sympathy remains superficial.

Secondarily, Dayne's prayer and God's response seem slightly flawed logically. Each damned soul, technically, has the power to ask for forgiveness and reach Heaven, so Dayne's wish need not have been uttered or granted at all. It is already the state of things.

Nevertheless, Lisle has written a funny, original book that is worth reading.

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