This debut fantasy thriller finds an assassin taken out of the killing game only to be thrust into a surreal plot to dethrone a deity.
Former Glasgow street urchin Deborah has killed 38 people at the behest of a shadowy organization called The Orchard. Her handler, Eli, now guides her toward her latest target, a man residing within a sumptuous, unguarded mansion. She makes the assassination look like an accident, giving him a lethal injection between his toes. Moments later, someone shoots Deborah in the chest, killing her. She awakes in a Spartan room, situated in what appears to be an industrial slum full of “bedraggled beggars and throngs of sad-looking civilians.” When Deborah meets the Angels Zotiel and Zephon, they tell her she’s in Purgatory. They bring her to the Archangel Raziel, who informs her that “God is gone” and His Office has been corrupted. Deborah, an atheist, must nevertheless come to grips with her otherworldly predicament. She’s recruited by the Divine Revolution to kill the New God, who has usurped the throne and stripped the angels of power. Murdering the deity, however, means first assembling a proper support team from within the vastness of Purgatory, including a tactician (“I need someone who thinks differently than I do,” Deborah says. “Someone I can work with. Who can consider the long game, while I deal with the immediate”). James aims to scandalize in his raucous novel, boasting no shortage of horrendous flashbacks to teenage Deborah’s life in her aunt’s abusive home and then on the streets of Glasgow with her young lover Mark. Readers follow the path of someone who learns that “Hitman is a very apt word,” because the “same word we use for a kill, a junkie uses for a shot.” The narrative’s parade of shocking moments (like Deborah’s first kill, using a pen on her victim’s neck) should leave fans of garish violence and spectacular action in awe. Leaving his dramatic denouement for future installments, James spends quality time introducing the characters Deborah needs for the mission—like Lena, the nurse, and Whitman, the strategist—in segments that surround a charismatic protagonist with an equally likable cast. Near the end, a ghoulish chase sequence is the cherry on top of a richly disturbing story.
A beautiful dose of carnal mayhem set in Purgatory.