Review: The Dirty Streets of Heaven / Author: Tad Williams / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton / Release Date: Out Now
Bobby Dollar is an angel cloaked in human form, one charged with guiding souls to heaven once they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. The opposition also have a vested interest in the souls of mankind and Bobby has to attend a celestial hearing to advocate the inherent goodness of each man, woman, and child he’s called to defend. Bobby hopes to see them into the afterlife that he believes (some more than others) that they richly deserve. In a scenario reminiscent of today’s judicial system, Bobby wins and occasionally loses his cases, trouble being the ones he loses, the other side get to keep - and play with. Damnation in hell, so he’s given to understand, can last a real long time.
Events take a turn for the worst for Bobby when he finds himself centre stage in a search for a mysterious object, an enigma that may have far flung consequences to both sides who are actively engaged in a kind of holy/unholy cold war. Heaven and Hell, it would seem, suspect that he’s got it. However, not only has Bobby Dollar not got it, he doesn’t have the first clue what it is.
Bobby Dollar is something of a maverick angel and as his unfortunate situation spirals into complete chaos he tries to take matters into his own hands. Bobby doesn’t do things by halves and after becoming overly familiar with a femme fatale member of the opposition and rubbing a Duke of Hell up the wrong way he inevitably makes matters a whole lot worse.
Peppered with a crime detective noir and blended with a religious mythology which we are all familiar with, The Dirty Streets of Heaven makes for an entertaining read. The characters, in the main, are well thought through, multi-dimensional beings, and all become suspects in Bobby Dollar’s otherworldly quest.
As exciting a romp as this novel is, it’s not all plain sailing. A sad fact of current fantasy tends to define female characters by their sexuality (women are either engaged with the protagonist on a romantic basis or reduced to menial subservient roles) and in this case The Dirty Streets of Heaven is no exception. Although this may very well be a nod to the crime genre of yesteryear it did however raise an eyebrow from this reviewer. It would be nice to see female characters in roles as many and as varied as the men. Sigh.
Regardless though, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a solid, engrossing read, the whodunit factor is well-played, the action sequences and general tone and feel of the book spot on with what one might expect (demand) from a detective/fantasy novel.