The Dirty Streets of Heaven: Volume One of Bobby Dollar
by Tad Williams
Cover Artist: Kamil Vojnar
Review by Drew Bittner
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756407681
Date: 04 September 2012 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Bobby Dollar is an Advocate, representing souls at a tribunal to determine their ultimate destination: heaven or hell. But when clients start to go missing, something is very, very wrong on earth.In The Dirty Streets of Heaven, bestselling author Tad Williams takes a foray into the realm of urban fantasy with the story of an angel who's got a very big problem to solve. As souls start to go missing, Bobby (aka the angel Doloriel) starts to investigate.
Bobby also copes with breaking in a new angel, Haraheliel, who seems singularly unsuited for fieldwork, and his partner Sam's eccentric approach to doing their work. After a case breaks their way--partly with unsought help from the new guy--Bobby and Sam find that their opposite number has been gruesomely murdered...something that shouldn't be possible. Bobby finds a clue in the bloody mess, but isn't sure what it means, and catches a glimpse of the stunning she-devil known as the Countess of Cold Hands.
Working in the port city of San Judas, not far from San Francisco, can be a tough gig. But Bobby starts to learn the meaning of tough when it seems a demon has been set on his trail, and despite his angelic powers, he cannot banish or turn aside this supernatural killing machine. He is forced to go on the run, evading the monster while events spin further out of control. Bobby calls upon a very unusual information broker for help and makes use of last-resort resources he never expected to tap, all leading to a colossal melee at the angels' favorite watering hole.
Bobby also runs afoul of heavy hitters including Kenneth Vald, real estate tycoon/devil, his henchman Howlingfell (who happened to know the murdered diabolical advocate--coincidence?), and many more. At the rate he accumulates enemies, Bobby doesn't have to worry much about playing nice--especially when he starts to comprehend what's really going on behind the scenes.
If you think angels don't have something to fear, well, you'd be wrong.
Williams delivers the first of what will hopefully be a long-lasting series of adventures for this angel and his clique. Bobby is a scruffy, anti-authoritarian sort out of Urban Fantasy 101, but Williams is a master storyteller and makes the tropes work for him instead of coasting on their backs. With a background as a warrior angel, once upon a time, Bobby nevertheless ruminates on what his life might have been like when he was a living, breathing human--before Heaven stripped his memories and sent him back to Earth to serve God and his archangels.
He also has some fun with the different types of angels, setting up some as terrifying (remember, the angels WON the war against Hell...) and others as comic relief of a sort. The stakes are high for both sides--when souls, the commodity of exchange, start to go missing, the two superpowers do take notice--but the true plot at work here is more subtle and clever than a reader might expect at first blush.
The mechanics of angel-human interaction, especially the role of advocate, is an intriguing one, and ripe for further exploration, as well. If Williams has a singular gift, it is the creation of intricate, elaborate and yet fully realized worlds where so much goes on, any single paragraph might inspire another story. That's a rare talent indeed.
Fans of urban fantasy will enjoy this newest entry into the field, but those indifferent to genre labels will find it a rewarding read too.