When we last saw Charlie Hardie at the end of FUN & GAMES he was…only mostly dead. Illustrating once again that you really can’t kill a good thing, Charlie is back with a vengeance in HELL & GONE.

Proving that he’s not one for a Dallas-style cop out, author Duane Swierczynski minces no words—he wields them—in describing Charlie’s plight. Without wanting to lessen the fun of the story, suffice to say that Charlie is being held against his will by some Very Scary Dudes (and Dudettes). His relatively peaceful existence as a house-sitter is long gone, and he’s assigned the task of minding the most bizarre prison ever created, one that as vicious as any I’ve ever encountered, even if you can count the number of inmates on two hands.

Oh, and this isn’t some kind of day job gig. The prison is far underground and Charlie can’t leave. Ever. But “ever,” for Charlie, is relative, of course.

Like FUN & GAMES, HELL & GONE is populated by a cast of characters unlike any you’ve ever read. Nobody — and I mean no-bud-ee — is what they seem. This is a story that doesn’t politely request a willing suspension of disbelief; it demands it.

One of the (many) elements of this story I loved is its distinct lack of political correctness. It doesn’t apologize for anything at all. Swierczynski respects his readers enough to let us buckle in and just enjoy the ride. HELL & GONE also hits the “book length” bulls eye, being neither too long nor too short. I think both this book and its predecessor are appropriate for older kids, particularly reluctant readers, but I would recommend parents read them first, since some will disagree with me.

This is the second book of the Charlie Hardie trilogy, and contrary to my usual “throw order to the wind” attitude, these books need to be read in order. After you read HELL & GONE, mark March 7, 2012 on your calendar; that’s when POINT & SHOOT, the last installment in the Charlie Hardie trilogy, hits shelves.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about Charlie, Duane was good enough to wrangle him into doing an Interview with a Character with me. It’s one of my favorites, and you can read it here.

If you’re looking for a quiet, logical tale, HELL & GONE is not it. But if you’re in the mood for that unique sense of joy that comes from a story unlike any you’re read before and wastes not a single word, read it right now.

Author’s Website: www.secretdead.com