Intellectual discourse interpretizing the nature of life and death rarely inspires murder mystery consumers to read and reread mind-blowing paragraphs. But attorney James Kimmel Jr, author of "The Trial of Fallen Angels", has not written an ordinary murder mystery.
Kimmel's dead protagonist has been tasked to defend justice in a heavenly courtroom where Final Judgments appear incomplete. Within this Grisham-esque setting, the Quaker novelist balances provocative spirituality with raw human emotion.
The sorrowful wife and mother-- aka brilliant lawyer on earth-- arrives in a sort of purgatory, seeking answers regarding her death:
"Who am I, Luas?" I said, confused and lost. "Or, should I say, who was I..."
Luas tugged on the empty right sleeve of my suit jacket, causing me to turn toward him. "You did it on purpose," he said, indicating the empty sleeve..."
"You have no right to judge me..."
"All that was forgiven long ago," Luas replied.
"Forgiven? Really? I don't remember forgiving anybody..."
"Have you heard of the Book of Life and the Book of Death?" he asked.
"They don't exist," he said.
I exhaled in relief, prematurely.
"God doesn't maintain them. We do. Each one of us. A record of every thought, word, and deed in our lives. The storage is quite perfect, actually. It's the recall that's incomplete.
"Not that this is a defect. Important reasons exist for narrowing the field. Forgetting traumatic events helps one cope, and there's the exquisitely practical need to avoid being consumed by them.
"Memory isn't the defective tape recording you've been led to believe. It's the tape player itself, playing back the tracks of music we select-- and sometimes those we don't. Replayed on the right machine--a high-quality machine-- the music can be reproduced with great fidelity and precision, nearly as perfect as when it was first created."
In his roundabout trial of narrator Brek Cuttler, Kimmel plays perfect tapes from the life of every fallen angel inspiring Brek's murder-- including her own. This fascinating cycle offers readers an expanse of related visions to process, leading to the discovery that one's life reflects the intersection of spontaneous choices many made for rational reasons, within the context of each person's earthly experience.
Kimmel has penned a reflection both intense and fresh. It begs to be read a second time and a third. "Creation is a matter of perspective and choice," says the voice of Luas. "What one wishes to see becomes what one is able to see."
Repeat readings of this well-structured, deeply felt novel bear the promise of a more expansive vision, though, as Kimmel's wise heavenly sculptor Gautama articulates, "... ask yourself how many times the same choices must be presented before the story is accurately told."