I received a review copy of Tad Williams’ “The Dirty Streets of Heaven” while I was at BEA in exchange for an honest review. I’m also reading it as part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII event.
“The Dirty Streets of Heaven” is the first book in a new urban fantasy series that combines elements of gritty noir with the supernatural. Bobby Dollar is an angel known as an Advocate, which is the heavenly version of a lawyer. When people die, an angel and a demon present arguments before a judge as to whether that soul should go to Heaven or to Hell. Bobby argues for souls in the general region of San Judas, California. However, one day souls begin disappearing before the process can take place, and when Bobby Dollar begins to investigate, he finds himself caught up in a plot that’s way over his head.
Bobby Dollar’s character makes this novel work. He’s funny, he’s sarcastic, he’s sometimes an ass, and above all, he seems entirely human. He likes to drink, he hangs out at the pub with his friends, and he sometimes sleeps with somebody and regrets it in the morning. It’s not what you’d expect from an angel, but Tad Williams pulls it off incredibly well and uses it to reinforce the atmosphere that the book creates.
The minor characters are equally as vibrant. There’s Casimira, the Countess of Cold Hands, a goth demon chick that Bobby Dollar finds irresistible, despite (or perhaps even because of) the fact that they’re working for different sides in a struggle that’s remarkably similar to the Cold War. There’s Clarence, the rookie, who is a new Advocate who’s been sent down from the records department despite having no formal training. Then there’s Sam, Bobby’s old war buddy turned drinking buddy, and Monica, Bobby’s ex, and the unresolved feelings between the two of them. I appreciated the way that Tad Williams was able to give his characters believable and realistic social circles, and the characters remind you of somebody that you’d know and that you’d like to hang out with.
Despite Tad William’s excellent writing and vibrant characters, the story still lacks a certain spark of originality. The characterization and the details are wonderful, but the whole angels and demons arguing over souls thing sounds a bit like a made for TV movie. Mind you, I still enjoyed it, but I did wish that there would have been a bit more of a twist or a departure from tradition.
If the idea of Law & Order with angels and demons sounds interesting to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.