Several of the stories feature Clovenhoof (the new alias for Satan after he is fired and forced to retire in Birmingham) and his neighbours Nerys (lovable tart) and Ben (lovable geek). The gang get into fights with snowmen, ruin a wedding and find themselves in a life drawing class. 'Clovenhoof and the Spiders' is a particular joy to read, in which Clovenhoof loses twenty tarantulas somewhere in Ben's flat. Chaos ensues and the punchline is very funny.
Goody and Grant use this collection to trial new characters from both Heaven and Hell, broadening their roster of saints and sinners for future novels. St Christopher is introduced in 'Patron Saint of Nothing At All' where he must come to terms with losing believers on Earth, despite his proud yet desperate insistence that he is the patron saint of travel, storms and toothache, and once carried the baby Christ across a river. He appears again in 'The Non-Specific Prayer Assessment Unit' where he has been relegated to a call centre which responds to prayers. Very inventive and lots of fun.
More fantastical characters appear in 'St Nick and the Krampus', depicting the annual Heaven and Hell Christmas gift exchange and featuring Joan of Arc, St Nicholas, demon Rutspud and the fantastic Christmas demon, the Krampus. We meet Rutspud again in 'A Cat's Chance in Hell' in which he finds a kitten in Hell and is utterly confused and terrified by the little furry creature. Definitely my favourite story in the collection.
Newcomers need not be deterred, thanks to a brief and clever introduction in which a victim of the first novel meets with a psychologist, helpfully providing an overview of the central characters. Even without this introduction, the majority of stories hold their ground as funny standalone tales, therefore no prior knowledge of the series is required. However, returning fans will be richly rewarded with references to the novels that they have already enjoyed.
Satan's Shorts is a brilliant example of how short stories can assist in franchise-building. More importantly, it is a delight to read and perfect for digesting one story at a time during your next week of commuting.