Cover Image: Heaven's Crooked Finger

Heaven's Crooked Finger

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Member Reviews

Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I am very much looking forward to the next one.
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If you were raised in a church that handled poisonous snakes with a hell fire and brimstone preacher who was also your father would you return to your small rural mountain town if you had finally escaped. Earl Marcus was not really interested until he heard that the people of the church believed and had sighting of the preacher after his death and funeral. 
To top it off the woman who had taken Earl in once he fled his father as a teen was dying and for her he would return. 
None of his former associates want him around especially the sheriff whose daughter Earl had a relationship with. Earl knows bad things are happening in the church just as they were long ago. He knows he should stay with the dying woman who befriended him until he can get out of town. But things have a way of pulling him back into the snake pit 
This is a tense read one that will keep you moving if not from the suspense from the crawling cotton mouths. A very intense but excellent story telling of the back woods of ritual North Carolina.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance copy of Heaven's Crooked Finger, the first novel in a projected series featuring PI Earl Marcus, set in the mountains of northern Georgia.

30 years ago after a rift with his family Earl left the mountains and his insular community for a new life in North Carolina. He has never been back and doesn't want to but when he gets a letter that Granny, a woman who helped him in the past, is dying and wants to see him before she dies he doesn't hesitate. Enclosed with the letter is a second letter containing a picture of his dead father, implying that he is still alive. He wants nothing to do with it but gets involved when he finds out that the sender, Bryant McCauley is missing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Heaven's Crooked Finger as it is a real page turner. I got caught up in it from the first page and didn't put it down until I'd finished. I'm not sure where to start as there is so much going on and it all meshes together well into a very good read. I like the plot which is quite unusual and could probably only happen and be believable in its setting. It is well paced and you think initially that you know all about Earl and his dysfunctional upbringing but as the novel continues the revelation of more and more secrets puts the lie to this and it's both gripping and fascinating - no wonder he drinks!

Earl comes from the Bible Belt where there is a strong Pentecostal tradition but the Church of the Holy Flame and its preacher RJ Marcus, Earl's father, are extreme fundamentalists. An early observation by Earl on his father really caught my eye "My father ... believed in the almighty power of God and the strictest interpretation of good and evil. If he ever found a gray area in all his days, I wasn't privy to it; there was the Holy Scripture and there was everything else". Of course this faith includes the handling of venomous snakes which the novel mention in the first sentence. It's a strange world to most of us and as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that it is also a dangerous one to anyone less than wholly submissive to its tenets. I found this insular, claustrophobic world absolutely fascinating as it is so far removed from my life and experiences.

Earl himself is very obviously damaged by his early experiences in this world. He drinks too much and finds it impossible to sustain a relationship. It is no wonder that he is extremely wary about returning. His first person narrative is excellent with an inviting tone. It is peppered with both anecdotes from his childhood and brutal self analysis while maintaining the pacy plot. He is pretty sure his father hasn't "ascended" i.e. risen from the dead as his congregants believe but proving it is a dangerous proposition in the face of a hostile environment. He faces adversity with more courage and tenacity than he believed he owned. The only part of his character I found difficult to believe is the dreams/visions he's had since he was bitten by a venomous snake.

Heaven's Crooked Finger is a very good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.
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Earl Marcus has left his father R.J.’s tyrannical church and his Georgia hometown far behind and he’s content to stay far away. The a photo arrives at Earl’s house, a photo of his father, taken long after the man was supposedly dead. Earl goes back to the Church of the Holy Flame to get the truth, only to have his father’s followers’ tell Earl that his father has risen from the dead. The disappearance of local teenage girls is ignored. The girls later reappear, with strange tattoos on them. Does all this have anything to do with the well that lies on one of the mountains in the region? A well said to contain otherworldy power. Earl wants nothing more than to leave tis cursed place behind him, but he knows he will never rest until he learns the truth about his father, no matter how ugly it may be. This book made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Is there anything scarier than a group of backwoods bible thumpers willing to take the law into their own hands in “god’s name”?
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