Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early

Heaven's Crooked Finger

Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamental 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...

Title:Heaven's Crooked Finger
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Heaven's Crooked Finger Reviews

  • Kurt Dinan

    I have no proof, but I think Hank Early may be the illegitimate son of crime writer extraordinaire James Lee Burke. In style, plotting, and philosophical musings, Early's first novel with haunted and reluctant detective Earl Marcus is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Burke's Robicheaux novels. Not that Early hasn't carved out his own literary space here. Set in the mysterious Georgia mountains, Early's created a perfectly crafted world of secret communities, religious sects, and haunted past

    I have no proof, but I think Hank Early may be the illegitimate son of crime writer extraordinaire James Lee Burke. In style, plotting, and philosophical musings, Early's first novel with haunted and reluctant detective Earl Marcus is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Burke's Robicheaux novels. Not that Early hasn't carved out his own literary space here. Set in the mysterious Georgia mountains, Early's created a perfectly crafted world of secret communities, religious sects, and haunted pasts. Throw in a lot of snakes, some missing teenagers, and detective returning to face a past he's run from for decades, and this is one the most exciting crime debuts in years.

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    this is the first book in a southern crime fiction series that i’m going to devour as soon as they are written. there’s a lot to appreciate here - good atmosphere and description, appealingly flawed antihero protagonist, southern gothic flourishes, and a little romance, if you’re into that sort of thing. it’s grit lit-adjacent by virtue of its isolated deep-in-the-mountains

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    this is the first book in a southern crime fiction series that i’m going to devour as soon as they are written. there’s a lot to appreciate here - good atmosphere and description, appealingly flawed antihero protagonist, southern gothic flourishes, and a little romance, if you’re into that sort of thing. it’s grit lit-adjacent by virtue of its isolated deep-in-the-mountains-of-north-georgia population, bound together by history, secrecy, and the influence of the snake-handling church of the holy flame, whose charismatic, recently-deceased preacher rj marcus has been seen - and photographed - after his body was buried, giving credence to his claims that he would conquer death itself and preserving the legacy of fear, awe, and power he inspired among his flock.

    rj’s estranged son earl has been working as a private investigator in north carolina, cut off from his father and his brother lester for thirty years, vowing never to return to the hometown where he was humiliated, betrayed, and abandoned as a teenager. he receives a letter from a man named bryant mccauley, one of his father’s most devoted followers, containing photographic proof that rj is still alive, along with a plea to come help him track rj down - an invitation earl finds easy to ignore. less easy to ignore is the letter accompanying it, from mary hawkins, the biological granddaughter of the woman known to all as “granny,” who took earl in after his father cast him out. now over a hundred years old, the still-sharp granny has pancreatic cancer and would like to see earl before she dies, so he ventures back to coulee county to pay his respects and finds himself investigating a string of seemingly related crimes against teenaged girls that stretches back decades, struggling to find answers in a community still very much under rj’s influence, where he is plagued by visions, his own metaphorical demons, and some very real snakes.

    it’s a very strong series opener. i like rufus (although his charm is somewhat compromised by his “describe to me all the boobies” insistence), i love goose the dog, and i love a good fire n’ brimstone community - so much potential for misguidedly criminal zealotry. so even though there are some iffy bits, like that first exchange between earl and ronnie thrash, where Tough Guys Talk Tough in a way that made my remaining ovary roll its eye, it’s also got some moments with a sharper descriptive edge, many of which involve earl’s relationship to his father and his version of god.

    i’m not sure where earl goes from here, or if the ooOOOoo supernatural whispers are going to become a more prominent part of the action, but i’m certainly interested enough to stick with it and find out.

  • Jo

    Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I

    Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I am very much looking forward to the next one.

  • Randy

    This was just one phenomenal book! Private investigator,Earl Marcus returns home to be with an old woman he loves and

    feels obligated to as she is dying.

    This begins a journey through a 30 year-old mystery full of guilt, shame , and his struggles with his his religious zealot father and his twisted congregation.

    With supernatural overtones, this is a haunting and compelling beginning to an excellent new series. This one is a must read and I can't wait for more!

  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    Earl left the mountains of North Georgia thinking that he would never return. He then receives news that the lady he calls Granny is dying and he owes her the respect of going to visit. He also receives a weird photo that shows his Daddy..postdated after his dad's death.

    Earl's Daddy was the preacher of the Church of the Holy Flame. He believed that God would strike you pretty much dead for everything. His word is law in the small north GA town and he had disowned Earl years ago. Earl was sevente

    Earl left the mountains of North Georgia thinking that he would never return. He then receives news that the lady he calls Granny is dying and he owes her the respect of going to visit. He also receives a weird photo that shows his Daddy..postdated after his dad's death.

    Earl's Daddy was the preacher of the Church of the Holy Flame. He believed that God would strike you pretty much dead for everything. His word is law in the small north GA town and he had disowned Earl years ago. Earl was seventeen years old when he fell from his Daddy's godly ways. He was bitten by a snake during the church service because his faith just wasn't strong enough.

    He finally was turned away from his family and the town when he continued to not live up to his Daddy's version of God's laws. He was taken in by the local midwife who he calls Granny.

    Earl's return to town is not such a happy occasion for the members of his Daddy's church..they pretty much still hate him. And then there's that rumor that his Daddy has risen from the grave just like he prophesied. And now young girls are showing up either dead or with strange tattoo like markings on their bodies.

    You would think that this type of church doesn't exist anymore?

    I don't know of any now in our area (North GA where the book is set) but I ran from the church years ago. I know that the power of the church is still alive and well in our area and there is almost fear to speak against anything that is believed inside those walls. Fear makes people do strange things. I could see the power of Earl's Daddy come alive in these pages. I've been to churches in this area that totally make me think that the storyline in this book could happen. Lots of power to men that preach the gospel, people want to believe. They feel that fear in so many different ways. Like having to make sure that their tithing is met, no matter if they go hungry. (I have a friend who does this still-she refuses to miss a week even if she can't pay her electric bill). I've also seen public shaming in church. I think most people are like Earl.....

    so they keep going and believing.

    This book blends the religious fanaticism with the mystical very well.

    Plus it's just damn good. I'll read whatever this author puts out next.

  • Jeri

    Earl left the mountain town he was raised in thinking he would never, ever return there. When he gets word that the woman who helped him is dying, he returns but not just for her, but to also solve the mystery about whether his father is actually dead or has returned from the dead to continue leading his church. His father formed a church that handled snakes to prove their faith in God. When Earl was bitten and left to die or live he left. Earl's brother has now taken over the church. The whole

    Earl left the mountain town he was raised in thinking he would never, ever return there. When he gets word that the woman who helped him is dying, he returns but not just for her, but to also solve the mystery about whether his father is actually dead or has returned from the dead to continue leading his church. His father formed a church that handled snakes to prove their faith in God. When Earl was bitten and left to die or live he left. Earl's brother has now taken over the church. The whole town is either believers or "heathens". Earl had also gotten a photo in the mail showing his father after his death as alive as ever.

    This book was a very good read. Though I was not raised in the mountains where these type of churches seem to thrive, I do come from a small town where not much has changed since the 30's-40's. Earl makes a nice main character and I would be interested to see where his life goes from here. The book did not leave you hanging like most do if the author makes a series of them.

    I was given an eARC by the publisher through NetGalley.

  • A.E.

    I don't say this very often, but if I could give this book six stars out of five, I would. Hank Early, one of the alternate names that writer John Mantooth uses, is a phenomenal writer. This book reminded me of a fusion between Tom Piccirilli and William Faulkner. It was eerily good. The pacing was fantastic, the mysterious supernatural elements were on point, and the strained family relationships as well as guilt and inner turmoil of the protagonist were stupendously well done. I truly hope thi

    I don't say this very often, but if I could give this book six stars out of five, I would. Hank Early, one of the alternate names that writer John Mantooth uses, is a phenomenal writer. This book reminded me of a fusion between Tom Piccirilli and William Faulkner. It was eerily good. The pacing was fantastic, the mysterious supernatural elements were on point, and the strained family relationships as well as guilt and inner turmoil of the protagonist were stupendously well done. I truly hope this novel receives the recognition it deserves when it comes time for it to be nominated, and I hope that more people read this novel because it is amazingly good. Even though it is set in a tiny Southern town, it still definitely has that delicious Southern Gothic feel to it. Highly recommended!

  • Diane S ☔

    Earl was raised in the Georgia mountains ,son of a fire and brimstone preacher who was the leader of a cult like church who believed in the handling of snakes. A man who didn't believe in calling a doctor, believing it was up to God whether the person should live or die, even if that person is there son. Earl would leave home at sixteen, taken in by a wonderful, black woman, who he calls Granny. He would leave the mountains, vowing never to return, which he didn't even when he heard of his fathe

    Earl was raised in the Georgia mountains ,son of a fire and brimstone preacher who was the leader of a cult like church who believed in the handling of snakes. A man who didn't believe in calling a doctor, believing it was up to God whether the person should live or die, even if that person is there son. Earl would leave home at sixteen, taken in by a wonderful, black woman, who he calls Granny. He would leave the mountains, vowing never to return, which he didn't even when he heard of his father's death. He does return though, when he hears from Granny's granddaughter that she is dying, and when he receives a picture intimating that is father may not be dead after all.

    This is the start of a new series, and Earl is a fascinating character. What he finds when he returns home is a boat load of trouble, underhanded dealings and the quest for and abuse of power. This is a gritty read, very atmospheric, divided families and a great deal of fear by the young women in town.

    Who to trust, who is involved in the church, and is his father really alive? Answers will be found, with loses for some and reconciliation for others. A good start to this series, and will definitely be reading the second.

    ARC from Netgalley.

  • Liz

    “I had always wanted to believe in something. I still do.”

    Wow. What a beginning. As a teenager, Earl Marcus was desperate for the love of his father, a Pentecostal preacher in the hills of Northern Georgia. The kind of preacher that handles snakes and preaches hard core hell and damnation His father has a strict sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Earl lands on the wrong side of his father’s beliefs after he is bitten by a snake during a church service.

    Time moves forward and Earl is a PI i

    “I had always wanted to believe in something. I still do.”

    Wow. What a beginning. As a teenager, Earl Marcus was desperate for the love of his father, a Pentecostal preacher in the hills of Northern Georgia. The kind of preacher that handles snakes and preaches hard core hell and damnation His father has a strict sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Earl lands on the wrong side of his father’s beliefs after he is bitten by a snake during a church service.

    Time moves forward and Earl is a PI in North Carolina when he gets a letter asking him to return to Georgia before his “Granny” passes away. He’s never resolved the trauma of his teenage years and he’s got an alcohol problem to prove it. Oh, and he’s been sent a photo of his father taken months after his father’s supposed death.

    Earl has problems but it’s hard to dislike a man that saves a pup from death by snakebite and immediately names and adopts the pup.

    The writing here has a hard edge to it, as hard as the Georgia mountains. Early does a great job of making you feel the fear. Not just the fear Earl had as a teenager, but that of the present day folks who are on the wrong side of the Holy Flame Church. He gets that whole concept of being able to love and hate a parent at the same time. And he also gets that whole religious belief of being on the “right side”. I can still remember attending a service and hearing the minister say anyone who didn’t belong to their denomination was going to hell. It wasn’t good enough to be a Christian, you had to be part of their particular church. This book has a lot to say about the different “Gods” that people worship. “It wasn’t a prayer to my father's God. It was a prayer to Granny’s. To the god of goodness, the God of second chances, and the God who might not care.”

    There are lots of snakes in this story which just adds to the creepiness factor that Early does so well. I have a real problem with snakes and let me tell you, I was freaking out reading some of these scenes (my husband will attest to all the squirming I was doing while reading.)

    There are some wonderful characters here, especially Granny. I love her comment that prayers are like kisses. And Rufus, who was “the walking embodiment of the North Georgia gothic.” Ok, I know I’m not supposed to quote from a pre-release, but I can't help myself! This is an amazing book and would make a wonderful book club selection.

    My thanks to netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance copy of this book.

  • The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)

    I love stories set in the South. The mountains always have dark, and deep forbidding secrets.

    is a story of a charismatic man who run a christian ministry in the Georgia mountains. It is about a family that is torn apart by misguided beliefs, setting father against son and brother against brother.

    Returning home after 33 years away. Earl Marcus is confronted with the death of his father and the impending death of the black woman who cared for him after he left his family at

    I love stories set in the South. The mountains always have dark, and deep forbidding secrets.

    is a story of a charismatic man who run a christian ministry in the Georgia mountains. It is about a family that is torn apart by misguided beliefs, setting father against son and brother against brother.

    Returning home after 33 years away. Earl Marcus is confronted with the death of his father and the impending death of the black woman who cared for him after he left his family at age 14. Earl at age fifty is a private investigator, and an alcoholic. Never reconciling the abusive early years of his live, Earl now must confront them. Without really wanting to Earl keeps getting drawn in further and further into the misdeeds that his father and his followers committed.

    The book is well plotted, Earl is not one of my favorite characters but there is potential for this become a good series, if the characters get developed a little better.

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