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God is a Bullet

by Boston Teran

Publishers Weekly Strung-out on junk and tattooed with the dates of helter-skelter-style deaths they've caused, the kids who walk "The Left-Handed Path" talk Satanic talk and spread terror through the very Christian Southern California town of Clay. This tautly paced and harrowing debut thriller begins with the cult's murder of desk cop Bob Hightower's ex-wife and her husband, and the kidnapping of his 14-year-old daughter, Gabi. Desperate and driven, Hightower takes a leave of absence to look for the abducted girl. Fresh out of leads?his search has been stymied by a fellow policeman who's in league with the cult?Hightower meets Case, a 29-year-old, severely traumatized ex-heroin addict who is unable to forget her horrifying experiences as the sexual slave of the demonic Cyrus, who heads the bloodthirsty self-styled "tribe" that controls the local drug trade from a remote desert outpost. With Case's help, Hightower goes undercover and infiltrates the group. Though some of the book's early passages seem melodramatic, the tale becomes riveting as the unlikely duo follow Cyrus and his gang to hell and back. Teran does a fine job of contrasting Case's struggle to overcome Cyrus's pervasive presence in her mind with Hightower's ethical dilemma at taking orders from a junkie. The moral twists and turns of the searing narrative are jolting; the pair are even forced to commit murder for Cyrus before a climactic showdown in the desert. Cynical and DeLillo-like in its observations, paced with present-tense immediacy, Teran's hard-boiled prose does not belittle the tragedy at this novel's core. Not for the faint-hearted, the book is as addictive as illegal substances. Agent, David Hale Smith. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list This is a testosterone-pumped novel of violence and revenge, with a little redemption mixed in. It takes place in a territory of horrific contradictions--the Southern California of Charles Manson's Helter Skelter and Christian fanatics, Las Vegas, and south into Mexico, an area one character calls "Little Armaggedon." Bob Hightower, a demoralized, desk-bound cop doesn't see a ritual good-night light flicker from the bedroom of his teenage daughter, Gabi, who lives with her mother and stepfather. When he goes to investigate, Bob finds his ex-wife and her husband savagely murdered, and his daughter gone--kidnapped by a nihilistic cult. He teams up with Case, a burned-out ex-junkie and former cult member, in a search that tests his machismo and her determination to stay clean of drugs and cult influences. In her search for Gabi, Case expects to confront her own past of rape, forced drug addiction, and human degradation. Their target is Cyrus, a fiendish drug-addicted maniac with his own troubled past. Twenty-five years earlier, Cyrus triggered the current chaos when he shot an old black woman who had taken him in after he was abandoned by his parents. Whether the old woman died at his hands or those of Cyrus' compatriots, greedy real-estate developers lusting after the woman's land, remains at the murky center of the story. This is a fast-paced, stark narrative filled with unsavory characters--a white-man-wanna-be Indian bar owner and drug trafficker, a drugged-out black tattoo artist and resident desert wiseman, crooked cops and cultists--and incredibly violent acts. But the constant debate about good and evil and the meaning of life gives an undercurrent of self-examination to Teran's riveting first novel. --Vanessa Bush

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal This first novel is pretty standard thriller fareÄcorrupt sheriff John Lee Bacon hires bad guy Cyrus to kill his wife's lover, Sam. But Cyrus also kills Sam's wife, Sarah, and kidnaps Gabi, Sarah's teenaged daughter from her first marriage to Bob. Bob just happens to be a cop working for Sheriff Bacon, and now Bob must rescue his daughter from Cyrus. This vicious circle is embedded in a dark cult world of drugs, pornography, and violenceÄCyrus is a Charles Manson-like guru with a band of drugged-out, bloodthirsty followers who pursue the satanic "Left-Handed Path." This gives Teran an excuse to focus on graphic violence, depraved sex, and gross obscenities, demonstrating his "toughness." But he often pushes a metaphor too hard (describing Bob's truck as a "tin-sided garden of agony cruising in second gear") and sounds ridiculous instead of hard-bitten. At once silly and distasteful; not recommended.ÄRebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, IN

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.