Highly suspenseful and intricately woven, James Weber’s Jehovah: A Novel, will have you guessing until the very last page.
Austin, Texas is not just the setting of Jim Weber’s novel with vivid descriptions of the overall landscape and the individual neighborhoods, the people, the city’s crime history, the music, even the allergies people suffer from “cedar fever”; the city is more of a character. Weber does a superb job of immersing the reader in this urban environment in the early 1980s, that it’s easy to forget you’re not there.
The protagonist, Detective Sam Cain, knows the city as well as he knows his co-workers and the family he doesn’t see often enough when heading up a murder investigation. What he doesn’t know is who is killing mobsters, drug dealers, rapists, arsonists, drunk drivers and other unsavory types who have cheated the justice system. The victims are found in prayer position, on their knees, shot in the back of the head, the name of an Old Testament figure pinned to the fronts of their shirts.
The Old Testament figures prominently in this novel. The killer, referring to himself as Jehovah, sends typed letters filled with biblical references about unleashing his wrath on the wicked to the local newspaper. Of course, our protagonist’s surname clearly alludes to Cain, the Biblical figure who slew his brother, Abel, and readers are right to expect a mighty showdown between the killer and the detective.
The victim count rises as Cain races to piece clues together with the help from some and problematic interference from others. A most impressive feature of the book is the convincing details regarding police procedures and the internal politics of an investigation. The sections on forensics and criminal profiling are fascinating, while Cain’s meeting with a psychic is understated but nevertheless chilling.
There’s a large cast of minor but memorable characters, from the undercover cop who turned in his gun and chose to become a homeless person to “The Angel,” a shadowy figure of the night whose objectivity has motivated people to confide in him.
Given the religious zealotry evidenced in Jehovah’s letters, it’s appropriate that there’s also a priest, a member of the Holy Cross order of priests, who has his own political past having spent time in South America preaching liberation theology. As in all excellent mysteries, the concluding revelations make you reconsider everything you thought you knew. Weber leaves no loose ends, a feat considering the scope and complexity of the novel, making Jehovah a most satisfying mystery.