2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner!
Eerie, intense, and masterfully-crafted, Hank Early’s gripping series debut Heaven’s Crooked Finger transports readers to a secretive community in the Georgia mountains.
Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamentalist rule of his father RJ’s church—a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl’s home. The photograph is dated long after his father’s burial, and there’s no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive.
As Earl returns to Church of the Holy Flame searching for the truth, faithful followers insist that his father has risen to a holy place high in the mountains. Nobody will talk about the teenage girls who go missing, only to return with strange tattoo-like marks on their skin. Rumors swirl about an old well that sits atop one of the mountains, a place of unimaginable power and secrets. Earl doesn’t know what to believe, but he has long been haunted by his father, forever lurking in the shadows of his life. Desperate to leave his sinful Holy Flame childhood in the past, Earl digs up deeply buried secrets to discover the truth before time runs out and he’s the one put underground in Heaven’s Crooked Finger, Hank Early’s thrilling series debut.
So, I grabbed a copy of Heaven’s Crooked Finger (Earl Marcus #1) on Amazon a WHILE back when it went on sale for like $1.99. I was really intrigued by the cover as it gave me Stephen King ‘Revival’ vibes and the cover featured a blurb from one of my favorite horror writers, Paul Tremblay.
Low and behold, it turns out that I know the author and we live like 30 minutes from each other. Not only that, but I was a substitute teacher for him a few years back when I was in a transitioning period with my career path. Small word, eh?
But I digress.
Heaven’s Crooked Finger is a captivating debut. A dark and enthralling southern gothic piece of literary fiction that sinks its teeth in early on, leaving you emotionally drained by the turn of the final page.
While the opening couple of chapters wrapped themselves around me and had me clamoring for more, I have to admit that I started falling a little out of love with the story as it progressed toward 30-40%. It slowed down a bit, sort of meandering between characters, the he said/she said scripts that come with mystery novels, and glimpses into the past to give us a better feel for our protagonist and his… family issues.
But then I hit the 50ish% mark AND THINGS GOT REAL. Let’s just say that if you have a fear of snakes, you may read parts of this novel through your fingers. I wouldn’t say that I am scared to death of ole’ no-legs, but I’m not going up and kissing them on the head. These few scenes had me picking my feet up off the floor and clamoring for higher ground. On top of that, the story encompasses a church that makes its monthly tithe off dealing with cottonmouths. HARD PASS.
On top of that, the real mystery that surrounds this entire novel is inherently creepy as all get out and is never truly wrapped up until the very end (and is it even over at the point???? WHO KNOWS). It is a novel where emotions consistently run high, past choices suffer new consequences, and death may be lurking around each and every corner.
I absolutely dug the heck out of this novel and am excited about starting In The Valley of the Devil (Earl Marcus #2), which Crooked Lane Press was so kind to send me a copy of. If you dig southern gothic stories or want a new mystery author to try out, give Heaven’s Crooked Finger a shot. I cannot guarantee that there won’t be snakes, but I can say that you won’t be unmoved.