I was very excited when this book was announced; Tad Williams was going to write about an angel caught between the politics practiced by Heaven and Hell. This was going to be a trilogy, and with Tad forsaking his door-stopper novel length approach, the project simply upped the intrigue factor for me besides its wonderful premise.
The main gist of the story is that angels reside among us; their angelic presence is ensconced in corporeal human shells. This allows them to go about doing their business, which is saving as many souls as possible when people die. The process consists of the following: after every death a representative from both Heaven and Hell gather in the dimension known as “The Outside”, where every soul gets a hearing during which an angel and a demon argue like lawyers for its possession, and a heavenly angel adjudicates over said soul's afterlife. Bobby Dollar is among the several angels who stand in as representatives for Heaven against their hellish counterpart for deciding the fate of every person deceased.
This process has been going on for eons and never has it been different, until now. The most recent case for Bobby is tragic as the soul disappears during the judicial process and both Heaven & Hell get shaken up, and soon Bobby Dollar is accused of being the mastermind behind this unholy operation. What follows is a classic mystery as Bobby decides to investigate this disaster his own way. With surprising betrayals and even more surprising allies, he weaves his way within the fictional city of San Judas. It’s from here where the story truly begins its rollicking run.
My first impression after finishing the book was that this was unlike any other Tad Williams book I've read so far and that's one of the best things about it. Tad Williams is one of my favorites and all his fans know his style of developing the story and characters, what this entails is that the start of most of his books is a bit on the slower side. Not The Dirty Streets Of Heaven as it quickly opens up the world settings and pushes the reader in a noir-ish world of angels, demons, and mankind. Featuring Bobby Dollar as the quirky narrative voice, the tale is very much a mish-mash of a noir detective story with urban fantasy. Set in the fictional city of San Judas, the author conveniently creates a world wherein the reader can easily escape into. The noir settings are easily managed, and with the supernatural so easily overlapped with the normal, this effort draws comparison with the magical Windy City of Jim Butcher.
While primarily being a quintessential noir detective story packaged nicely in an urban fantasy setting with angels, demons, and whole other sorts of creatures, the author neatly sidesteps the question of religion and faith by making the characters unsure of who truly rules Heaven. The angels are themselves are in the dark about which is the correct or the most accurate representation of God’s word among mankind and this particularly adds another layer of intrigue to the world setting. This story is more about the angels doing their job on Earth and the way they get humanized. Characterization always has been a forte of Tad’s work and once again is one of the book's highlights, beginning from Dollar to the side character cast and even extending to the villains; the author paints a colorful and mysterious cast. The main character often drops anecdotes and offers nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his experiences which portend that he's had a motley past. This feature makes the read even more exciting as readers can only speculate how much of it is true and what’s bluster. On the other hand I’m ever curious to which of these past experiences might come into play in the future books.
The humor content is another feature that makes this story shine, beginning with Dollar’s sarcastic and witty narrative to his interaction with a certain white wannabe rapper. The readers will definitely be entertained by the comedic narrative flow of the story and the author does his best to slip nods to pop culture as well as to classic detective stories. One thing that is very odd is the main protagonist's name and in this regard the author could have done better, Bobby Dollar sounds more like a pimp than a detective angel. Perhaps this was the author's intent in creating a funny yet weird name but as things stand, this wasn't one of the shining jobs performed by the author.
The story follows a mystery track and veteran mystery readers will be able to pick out certain clues from the proceedings so as to predict certain points about the climax but not the entire tale. This was the one real drawback of substance in this wonderful book. The way the story is set up makes it predictable but fun, with its twists and character traits, I believe it was the author’s way of paying homage to the classic pulp-noir stories.
With a complete ending to most of the plot threads begun in this book, Tad Williams proves that he's adept in changing genres as he's as changing his literary style. The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a fantastic tale from the mind that gave us the Otherland series. Read this one if you want a good tale that mixes the styles of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with those of Jim Butcher and Tim Pratt. For its said that you've never met an angel like Bobby Dollar. Read The Dirty Streets Of Heaven to find out why…
NOTE: Visit the author's official website and read an extract over HERE and HERE. Lastly check this funny book trailer with a cameo by the author himself.