The pros: It's clever, entertaining and smart. The twist at the end, especially, let me shut HELLBENT with a big smile on my face. I like the motley cast of characters. And I like Raylene, a neurotic criminal with a surprisingly soft heart.
The cons: It's wordy (Raylene's inner monologues go on and on and on) and while Priest sets up a lot of conflicts that have the potential to ratchet up into some really scary, heart-in-the-throat moments, they don't. I never feel like Raylene is really in peril; she's prudent and competent, and when she's caught off-guard the threat never turns out to be half as scary as she herself is.
Here's an example of the wordy inner monologue: "Adrian had called a cab and it was waiting for us downstairs. We could've driven and left the car at the airport -- but if he wanted a cab, that was fine with me. Besides, parking at SeaTac is nothing short of extortion. So in retrospect, good on Adrian for thinking of it, especially since we expected to be gone for several days at the very least." - it's not that I mind the running patter, I find Raylene to be an interesting and intelligent narrator, and her chattiness gives us constant proof of her OCD nature, but that example is typical. It takes a paragraph to call a cab. And it takes many, many paragraphs to get anything significant done.
So the pacing is pretty slow, but, and to give Priest credit, sometimes the attention to detail results in brilliant little gems, like her description of solar-powered lawn lights at a vampire's house, "one every few yards, on both sides. That had to count as irony in some universe, right?" It's exactly the kind of detail that a less obsessive compulsive vampire narrator would miss, and that would be a shame.
So I'm finishing HELLBENT on the fence. I was pretty frustrated with the wordiness and also with the low tension level, but I was also happy to spend time with Raylene and her crew, and the writing is smarter than the average. I'd say this is a 3.5 star book and usually I round based on whether or not I think I'll read another book by the author. I'm not sure the answer is yes, but I wouldn't avoid one, so...four stars it is.
I was thrilled when HELLBENT came up on Netgalley because I read BLOODSHOT, the first book in the Cheshire Red series, and I enjoyed it, but I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to continue with the series. I figured a free read of HELLBENT would answer all my questions but it didn't, really. HELLBENT has all the same pros and cons as BLOODSHOT, in almost exactly the same quantities.