Crazy Greta by David Hardy
“As the Netherlands descends into the chaos of religious and political civil war, Crazy Greta runs her tavern, keeping order among the drinkers with her skillet. But when the Dead rise from their graves to slaughter the living, Greta faces a far greater challenge. Crazy Greta’s journeys take her across a land torn by war between life and death, through Hell itself, and even to the besieged gates of Heaven. Greta must confront Death, Satan, God, and her own madness before she can return home.”
Crazy Greta by Dave Hardy is the first book I’ve edited for Musa Publishing, and it is the funnest book. I know, I know, “funnest” isn’t the best descriptor, but the word just wraps this book up and ties it with a cock-eyed bow.
I always say, the best books are the ones that answer a question. For example, “What if vampires could actually have sex and form relationships?” How many books can you think of that answer that question? Well, Crazy Greta is the only book you will ever read that answers the question, “What if those paintings that show skeletons fighting humans in the 16th-century Netherlands depict something that really happened?”
Intrigued? Interested in reading something completely unique and crazy? You should be, because Crazy Greta is both unique and crazy, a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, thought-provoking book that takes you on a wild ride through Hell and back, and won’t let you put it down till it’s done.
Okay, so have you ever seen the Dutch paintings by Bosch and Bruegel that show nightmarish scenes of demons and fantastic hybrid creatures dragging humans down to hell? One painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) shows a scene of hell on earth, and in the center, a woman named Griet, wearing armor and carrying a sword, a basket of loot, and a heavy iron skillet.
And that’s where Dave found the inspiration for the main character in Crazy Greta. Frankly, she’s the reason you read this book. Greta is a heartbroken, embittered tavern owner who uses brandy to drown her anger and sorrow at the loss of her husband at sea. Until one day when a skeleton capers into her tavern and begins to kill. Greta and her friends escape, but they find the countryside overrun with the fiends. Greta’s friends are picked off one by one until only she remains. Rather than cower and wait for death, Greta throws on some armor, grabs her sword in one hand and her skillet in the other, and rides a stolen hell-horse straight into the underworld, where she wreaks havoc on her way to fight the devil himself and save Heaven. Apparently hell hath no fury like a mad Dutch-woman whose tavern has been overrun by imps.
Greta is what makes this book amazing. I love strong female characters, women who can kick your ass with one hand while cradling a baby with the other. Greta has all those imperfections epic heros must have, but she’s also funny. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book, taken from a scene in which Greta, now Pirate Queen of the Widows of Hell, has become captain of a fleet of flying pirate demon-ships that have decimated whole swaths of Hell in search of loot:
“Baltje saluted. ‘The decks are cleared for action, and the powder is stowed for serving the guns.’
‘Serve out wine and food to the crew,’ Greta said. ‘It will be their last meal for a while.’ Greta stared at the light that was growing brighter in the sky. ‘The last meal. The last battle, God grant it.’
‘So it is promised,’ Baltje replied. ‘We go either to the peace of our homes or the peace of the grave.’
Greta tapped her gauntleted fingers on the rail. ‘It seems a lifetime since the dead rose in revolt against the living and I was cast into Hell. What will have become of my home? Howbeit we shall find our homes?’
‘Those are nice gauntlets,’ Baltje said.
‘Thanks,’ Greta replied. ‘I got them from the Prince of Orange.'”
Yes, it’s true, even in Hell, Greta, like many women, will still be concerned with the latest fashions in demon-fighting attire. That’s what I love about this book. Just when it gets truly crazy and dark, just when you’re pondering the deepest questions of life and death and sin and salvation, a bright spark of humor lightens it up again.
Crazy Greta is a great time, full of multi-faceted characters, crazy scenes of mayhem, and subtle humor. You’ll go from wincing at the carnage to laughing out loud. An excellent read.