By David Nemeth
Several weeks into the pandemic, writers began to wonder how they were going to incorporate the loneliness and repetitiveness of our socially distant lives into their crime fiction. Would the pandemic become a major player of setting or would it be folded in? As agents, publishers, and readers await for the coronavirus crime novel, little did they know that it's already here—David Zeltersman's "Everybody Lies in Hell" (Eraserhead Press).
Zelterman's strange novel which blends multiple genres has nothing to do with COVID-19, but life in Hell has some striking similarities, the ennui and the sameness of our lives, but with a lot more excitement, after all, it is about a PI living and working in Hell.
Time has no meaning in hell. I know I died on October eighth,1998, and I know one of my clients died in 2013, so it’s possible I’ve been dead for only fifteen years, but it seems as if I’d been coming to this office for thousands of years already.
Chapter by chapter, we follow Mike Stone, a private investigator living in a Hell that looks and feels remarkably like Brooklyn, the same way a movie set feels like the real thing but it's not. Stone's job in Hell is a simple and one that he explains to a potential customer, "Most souls who hire me to find out who killed them already know the answer. They also know why. They just don’t want to admit it."
Zeltersman has done a lot of world creation of his version of Hell and he relays it without bogging us down in minutia. We learn a little bit at a time on how this Hell works with reality, portals, squatters, awareness, and much more, even with its wash-rinse-repeat weariness.
Part noir, part horror, and with no intention of being a pandemic novel, Zeltersman has created an action-packed companion novel for our times. "Everybody Lies in Hell" is fucking tight.