Jake Hinkson follows up his head-turning debut novel Hell On Church Street with The Posthumous Man, another tightly written piece of nasty Southern noir that’s dripping with old-time religion and blood. This time out we meet Elliot, a former preacher who is revived by a sexy nurse named Felicia in the emergency room following Elliot’s suicide attempt on his ex-wife’s bathroom floor.
Felicia apparently has a thing for sad sacks because when he asks if she wants to get a drink, she actually takes him up on it. But before they make it to the bar Elliot is suddenly locked into a heist Felicia is planning with some scary fellas. Seems they’re gonna rip off a big shipment of oxy as the truck rolls up to the pharmacy in Felicia’s hospital, the pay out being two million once they’ve sold off the drugs wholesale.
The novel plays out over the course of roughly one day with Elliot himself narrating. He’s been given a second chance but is not exactly using it too well, what with chasing after a woman who he’s only vaguely connected with and stepping into a life of crime. He’s cagey with revealing his past, not wanting to divulge things like why he’d given up preaching, what happened to his marriage, and why he tried to kill himself, but heist ringleader Stan the Man really wants to engage this new member of the gang on the Big Question.
Though Elliot has lost his faith, it seems the violent Stan is biding his time to gain it. He believes in God and forgiveness to such an extent that, like the Apostle Paul before him, he really wants to make his baptism mean something. So before he gives himself over to the Lord (he figures he’ll get baptized at 32, like Jesus himself did) he’s gonna make a mint and do some serious sinning, a lot of which we get to witness before the novel’s end. After all, converting doesn’t hardly mean anything if your sins are as lame as the regular square’s.
The body count rises and crosses are doubled before we get to the big finale where secrets are revealed and the come to jesus meeting gets good and bloody. The Posthumous Man manages to feel both like a classic post-war crime novel and something entirely new and all Hinkson’s own at the same. This is a doomed man in a world that likes to punish when it’s not busy being indifferent, but though there might not be a god, redemption might actually exist. If you’ve got the faith in the Nerd’s good news, dear reader, you should go forth and pick up The Posthumous Man toot-sweet.