Review: Saint Homicide by Jake Hinkson

4 Dec

Saint

In case you didn’t know, I am a huge fan of Jake Hinkson’s first two novels, Hell on Church Street and The Posthumous Man. Both books are relentlessly straightforward hardcore noir. My favorite thing. I like to read about awful people doing awful things in stories where everything turns out badly. I like to see the dark and creepy side of the world. It cheers me up. 

So, I was excited to get a copy of Hinkson’s new novella, Saint Homicide. This book is a little different from the first two, but, for me, just as satisfying, just as artistically/creatively impressive.

One difference is length. Church Street and The Posthumous Man, while still on the short side, were both full-length novels. Saint Homicide, however, at about 77 pages, is a very quick read. And, because it is so short, the plot is very simple and uncomplicated, lacking twists or subplots. The book just relentlessly tells one very fucked-up story about a very fucked-up guy. The actions described last less than 24 hours.

Still, like the first two books, Saint Homicide is focused on religion, spirituality, churches, and people involved with religions and churches—specifically fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity as practiced by people in and around Little Rock, Arkansas. In these three books of Hinkson’s, God and the Church and Jesus and the whole cosmology are like a character, a definite force in the universe in which his people live. This is most true in Saint Homicide.

Daniel, the main character, is a very flawed man. He is (at least to me) very unlikable, just the worst kind of person. He took on the fundamentalist word-view as a child and never wavered. His world is black and white: either one is a sinner and in league with the devil or one is righteous and good and following the ways of Jesus. There is no in between, no wiggle room, no grey area.

Of course, life can’t be lived that way. Humans have needs, desires. Sometimes their desires get out of control for a while and they make mistakes and they do bad things. So what? If a person’s worldview is wide-open and accepting, then they are able to forgive themselves and move on, and, also, they are able to forgive others their human frailties and imperfections as well. With this attitude, life can often be good and one is free to live and discover and grow naturally. However, for people like Daniel, life is a constant struggle, a constant misery in which they and the people around them never measure up—causing a constant fear of God’s retribution and a constant need to judge others.

The book begins with Daniel in prison. He is the first-person narrator and he tells the reader that, unlike his fellow prisoners, he readily admits his guilt and he embraces his punishment. For this, he is known as Saint Homicide. He then proceeds to tell the story of how he came to commit his crime.

Daniel was an adjunct professor of math (for some reason I have the idea it was a community college but I can’t find any place in the book where it states this). He had a bumper sticker on his office door: Abortion is Murder. One afternoon his boss calls him into his office and tells him to take down the sticker because people are complaining. Daniel, a rabid anti-abortion activist, takes down the sticker and then resigns his job without notice. He doesn’t even stay to teach his last class that day.

From the time he walks out of the school building, until he commits his crime early the next morning, he enters a kind of hell and walks steadily deeper and deeper into a twisted state of mind in which a horrific act actually makes perfect sense (to him). He gets to see himself and other people at their absolute worst. What is very clear to me is that none of it would have happened if the guy wasn’t such a stubborn and obsessive fundamental religious fanatic.  

At this point I feel like I have told too much. I want you to read and enjoy and savor the book just like I did. So, no more details. Just know that Saint Homicide is a fast enjoyable read in which there are no wasted words or actions. Hinkson has done it again.

Release date: December 16, 2013.

 

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