Hank Early’s riveting debut novel, Heaven's Crooked Finger, is set in Georgia's countryside, deep in mountain country. Most of its residents haven’t traveled beyond the Fingers, the five imposing peaks that surround their county. Those mountains, and what may be found there, are the focus of Early’s gripping narrative.
Readers will take a trip into the dark, evil heart of religious zealotry, and into the heart of fanatical preacher RJ Marcus. He keeps his congregation thoroughly cowed with his fiery sermons on hell and damnation along with his snakes, slithering in a pit at the front of the church, waiting to test a sinner’s faith—or fear.
After committing sins that are unpardonable in the eyes of the Church of the Holy Flame, RJ’s 17-year-old son Earl rebels against his father and leaves town. Earl's obedient brother, Lester, remains behind. But neither son has been able to free himself from their controlling father, even after his death months ago.
Thirty years after his escape, Earl is returning to his hometown in order to investigate the bizarre rumors that RJ has risen from the dead and ascended into the mountains, ruling the lives of his flock with all the terror of a true demon.
Earl is not as likable a fellow as we might wish for in a protagonist, but Heaven's Crooked Finger is chock full of meaty characters, any one of whom could figure as the subject of a separate book: the wily Rufus, whose lack of sight is never a hindrance to his wit and kindness; a villainous sheriff; runaways Millie and Todd; and a collection of lovely young women, victims of the church’s despotism.
Altogether this is a humdinger of a story told with a fresh voice and more than a lick of understanding.