Monday, January 19, 2009

Salvation Boulevard (Beinhart, Larry)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 2008
Genre: Crime
Read again? Yes

We gonna rock down to Salvation Boulevard! Yeah, it doesn't rhyme.

I first heard about this book in an FFRF podcast interview with author Larry Beinhart. This is the guy who wrote "Wag the Dog," which I haven't read yet; but after reading "Fog Facts" and "Salvation Boulevard" back to back (after several weeks of the disappointing 'Diana Tregard' trilogy), I'm at a point where I want to keep going with Beinhart. His style is solid, engaging. He doesn't wander around, and he isn't wordy.

Y'know...if Mercedes Lackey's wordiness got to me in the "Tregarde" books, I'm screwed when I get around to reading "Lord of the Rings."

So's the facts:

Nathaniel McCloud: University professor. An atheist. Murdered. Lead poisoning.

Ahmad Nazami: One of McCloud's students. A Muslim. Prime suspect. Says Homeland Security types tortured his confession out of him.

Manny Goldfarb: Nazami's defense attorney. A Jew. Utterly certain the kid's innocent.

Carl Vanderveer: Private Dick. A true-believin' Christian. Hired by Manny to investigate the case.

Pastor Paul Plowright: Vanderveer's pastor. A truer-than-thou-believin' Christian. Runs a mega-church that the entire planet goes to. Says the godless atheist had it coming. Wants to re-make the entire country in his own Dominionist image.

That's most of the religious high points. All it needs is a Pastafarian hooker with a heart of gold.

Carl quickly finds himself in trouble with his entire true-believin' world for taking the case, from his true-believin' pastor to the true-believin' cops who go to the church to his true-believin' wife. They all say Nazami's a terrorist. He's being followed by Homeland Security, who also say Nazami is a terrorist.

Then things go wrong.

Carl is a likable point-of view character. He comes across as a basic good guy, ragged around the edges. He used to be a cop, a dirty one, and he was saved from that life by Plowright. But Carl finds himself questioning his faith as he investigates McCloud's murder, and maybe it's a bit too easy, given how devoted he's been to being a megafundie. I don't know. Give me a year or two, a couple more reads. Right now I'm just basking in the afterglow of a pleasant reading experience. If you read a lot, you know how tiring it can be to plow your way through tedious "Oh, for fuck's sake!" moments, especially when they're piled deeper than soiled sheets in a hotel laundry.

I didn't see any such moments with this book the first time through, but that sort of thing tends to pop up in later readings for me. At any rate, it'll take someone who is a former true-believin' type to decide whether Carl went into unbelief too quickly or not, since I've never been one.


scorethefilm said...

Reaching way back for an Eddy Grant reference, are we? Ahahahaha.

JW said...

It's the only thing that really fits.

The "Strangers From The Sky" thing was funnier, I think.