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by Patrick Coleman
Harper Perennial, July 2019
335 pages
ISBN: 0062864106

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Mark Haines is a recovering alcoholic and recovering fundamentalist pastor who is steeped in bitterness and resentment when he isn't overcome by guilt for abandoning his church, his wife and his daughter. He works as a night security guard and surfs as the waves rise at dawn.

When he picks up a young woman by the side of the road, buys her a burger and offers her a place to crash, he breaks his first rule of survival never get involved. But when Cindy, aka Emily, disappears and his fellow security guard is murdered at work, Mark's world is shaken to the core.

Mark is kind of hateful, but you begin to tolerate him, mostly because his creator, Patrick Coleman, puts such wonderful words in his mouth. Mark is a wordsmith par excellence and he drags you along in his search for Cindy into the dark underworld of Southern California.

Cindy too is an escapee of fundamentalist megachurchs, but has fallen into the darkness of drug addiction, or so it appears. Mark's search leads him back to these pastors and their churches, where he discovers once again their lies about salvation while they crave money and power.

Mark has started to care, something he had forgone. Somehow Cindy connects him back to his feelings for his abandoned daughter and he continues the search, despite the usual bumps on the head. But when he is accidentally locked in a dark basement where he loses all sense of time, he has his "40 days in the wilderness" experience. The bitterness and hate evaporate. Clear-headed now, he pursues Cindy's trail into the nastiest heart of Fundamentalism.

Patrick Coleman has a deep understanding of how fundamentalism corrupts religions, turning them into destructive forces, and how this has been especially terrible in the United States, where God can replace the State as law. Only an individual can be "saved," which spawns an anti-government libertarianism.

If these issues do not interest the reader, he/she might find this noir's journey lost at times in philosophical musings, especially during the long section in the dark basement. But it's an interesting story and Coleman's language is so engaging that most will want to follow him to its conclusion.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, August 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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