Godsquad by Heide Goody and Iain Grant
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans.
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not.
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise.
An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.
I’ve been a fan of these two authors since I was first introduced to their work with Clovenhoof. Its sequel, Pigeonwings, continued in a similar vein. Their latest collaboration is not a sequel to either book but takes place in the same, mildly deranged, shared universe.
When a very important Heavenly personage goes missing, the powers that be bring together a special team. The group are tasked with tracking down said important personage, and making sure that all is well.
Joan is skilled in the arts of war, but naive to the modern world (with the exception of movies featuring Matthew Broderick). St Francis reads like an escapee from a Monty Python sketch. His journey leads from saint to top fashion designer (honestly, it does make sense) and back again. Finally there is Christopher, the ex patron saint of travel, and as close to physical perfection as you can get; it’s just a damn shame that no-one can actually see him.
What follows is a lunatic race against time. How will our intrepid team locate Mary and also manage to uncover the source of what appears to be a truly impossible event?
The plot starts in a relatively conventional manner, but as you’d likely expect, things spiral out of control pretty quickly. Our three heavenly ducks out of water always try to do their best and are chock full of the best intentions, but still they manage to find themselves in some truly bizarre situations. I can’t even begin to explain how the end of the world relates to a low flying convenience for example; you’re just going to have to take this one on trust. Things get undeniably odd, but it is a deliciously amusing oddness that is great fun to experience. In all honesty I’d be hard pressed to tell you who my favourite character is. The plot whips along at a good pace and gives each character the opportunity to shine in their own unique way.
It’s nice to visit the flipside side of the evangelical coin for a change, to discover that the forces of Heaven are just as shambolic and confused as the forces of Hell. The Godsquad are a well-meaning bunch but more often than not the modern world leaves them utterly confounded. My personal highlight was when our merry little band find themselves on the streets of Amsterdam during Gay Pride. The denizens of Heaven have in many respects lived a sheltered existence, and the Netherland’s capital can be a real eye opener at the best of times. The good news though is that they all actually fit into the hedonistic chaos rather well. Joan in particular discovers that she fills a very specific niche.
As with its predecessors, Godsquad has a wonderfully silly, irreverent vibe that always manages to raise a smile. The on-going collaborative efforts of Iain Grant and Heide Goody are consistently amusing and I always find myself looking forward to their next book. Watching this series continue to grow and evolve is a genuine pleasure, long may it continue.
Godsquad is published by Pigeon Park Press and is available from 23rd April. I’ll also be on the look out for the next book in the series, Hellzapoppin, later on this year.