Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Dirty Streets Of Heaven

by Tad Williams


Bobby Dollar is an earthbound angel who spends his days battling for the souls of the recently departed. He's on one of the bottom rungs of the heavenly hierarchy, without wings or many special powers. He inhabits a mortal body, but he also has a kind of immortality in the sense that if he dies his heavenly masters will usually put him in another body, so long as he stays in their good graces.

The trouble starts when Bobby is called on to advocate for a soul, but the soul in question goes missing. Things get worse when a powerful ancient demon that can't be reasoned with starts following him around, and it's not after his autograph. Higher demons are searching for a stolen treasure, and they seem convinced Bobby knows something about it, even though he knows nothing. Heaven and Hell have been at war forever, but Bobby hasn't and he has things to learn about the factions and loyalties of his side and the demonic Opposition.

Silver bullets fly in this angelic noir novel. Bobby Dollar has the cynicism and irreverence appropriate for a hard-nosed detective, as well as the customary fondness for alcohol. He's likeable, but at the same time something of a stereotype. There's also a very hot demoness who slots neatly into the role of femme fatale. However, just because the beginning riffs off certain tropes doesn't mean that the story has to stick to them, and that's some of its appeal. When the demoness Casimira appears she couldn't be more of a femme fatale if she painted her lips with cyanide, and Dollar fully expects her to betray him. So some of the mystery is in whether she or Bobby will behave true to their type.

Heaven isn't quite the way many people might imagine, except perhaps superficially. Bobby visits periodically, but he has never met God and doesn't know of anyone who has. He has met shiny high-powered angels who are above him in the hierarchy. They're a bit like tight-lipped bureaucrats, especially Temuel, Bobby's immediate superior. Hell's cohort can be hideous inside and out, and they're much more varied than the angels. Throw in a hapless white gangster, a pig, and an alcoholic angel, and it makes for a quirky, fast-paced mystery.

There's a good deal of sex, which is vivid and specific rather than romantic. I was rooting for Dollar because he's entertaining, but he's also hopeless at relationships with women so I wasn't hoping he would work things out with them as much as shaking my head at the mess he made.

Overall, I enjoyed The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and I plan to read the sequel. However, it ends with quite a few loose ends untied, aside from the main mystery. So whilst this story is satisfying, it seems like the first act in a story that could be much more apocalyptic, and it's just getting warmed up.

3rd October 2014

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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Source: review copy
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