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Heaven's Crooked Finger

(Earl Marcus #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamental rule of his father RJ's church--a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl's home. The photograph is dated long after his father's burial ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
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John Hi La La,

I'm the author. Thanks for pointing this out. I just fixed it in the Goodreads description.


Hi La La,

I'm the author. Thanks for pointing this out. I just fixed it in the Goodreads description.


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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  401 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some people can reform, and some people just get by the best they can with their flaws. I’m the second kind.

this is the first book in a southern crime fiction series that i’m going to devour as soon as they are written. there’s a lot to appreciate here - good atmosphere and description, appealingly flawed antihero protagonist, southern gothic flourishes, and a little romance, if you’re into that sort of thing. it’s grit lit-adjacent by virtue of its isolated deep-in-the-mountains-of-north-georgi
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Earl left the mountains of North Georgia thinking that he would never return. He then receives news that the lady he calls Granny is dying and he owes her the respect of going to visit. He also receives a weird photo that shows his Daddy..postdated after his dad's death.

Earl's Daddy was the preacher of the Church of the Holy Flame. He believed that God would strike you pretty much dead for everything. His word is law in the small north GA town and he had disowned Earl years ago. Earl was sevente
Diane S ☔
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Earl was raised in the Georgia mountains ,son of a fire and brimstone preacher who was the leader of a cult like church who believed in the handling of snakes. A man who didn't believe in calling a doctor, believing it was up to God whether the person should live or die, even if that person is there son. Earl would leave home at sixteen, taken in by a wonderful, black woman, who he calls Granny. He would leave the mountains, vowing never to return, which he didn't even when he heard of his fathe ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
“I had always wanted to believe in something. I still do.”

Wow. What a beginning. As a teenager, Earl Marcus was desperate for the love of his father, a Pentecostal preacher in the hills of Northern Georgia. The kind of preacher that handles snakes and preaches hard core hell and damnation His father has a strict sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Earl lands on the wrong side of his father’s beliefs after he is bitten by a snake during a church service.

Time moves forward and Earl is a PI i
Kurt Dinan
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have no proof, but I think Hank Early may be the illegitimate son of crime writer extraordinaire James Lee Burke. In style, plotting, and philosophical musings, Early's first novel with haunted and reluctant detective Earl Marcus is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Burke's Robicheaux novels. Not that Early hasn't carved out his own literary space here. Set in the mysterious Georgia mountains, Early's created a perfectly crafted world of secret communities, religious sects, and haunted past ...more
Zuky the BookBum
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars, kindle, 2019
Wow, how can I adequately get across my absolute adoration for this book? I went into this title not thinking much about it, just knowing I needed to read it because it had been on my Netgalley shelf for quite some time, and then bam my first 5 star read of the year!

There truly isn’t anything I can say I didn’t like about this novel. The story does take you on a wild ride that does feel absolutely insane at times, but knowing what I know about so many cults, who’s to say this kind of thing doesn
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I ...more
Hank Early
Aug 25, 2017 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Even though I've read my own book, it would be weird to review it, right? So, I'm going to leave my first trade review here...

Starred Review from Kirkus

"You won’t put down this powerful and painful tale, the first in a planned series, until you’ve seen its unlikely hero explore all the avenues of love, hate, deception, and faith and unravel a gripping mystery."
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I love stories set in the South. The mountains always have dark, and deep forbidding secrets. Heaven's Crook Finger is a story of a charismatic man who run a christian ministry in the Georgia mountains. It is about a family that is torn apart by misguided beliefs, setting father against son and brother against brother.

Returning home after 33 years away. Earl Marcus is confronted with the death of his father and the impending death of the black woman who cared for him after he left his family at
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
i read this book in one sitting. the story revolves around a southern man named earl who returns home after 30 years having been banished for standing up to his religious & fanatical father. after receiving a cryptic letter indicating that his father has risen from the dead he heads home to see what is up. the characters are fabulous; his preacher father, the crooked sheriff, the overzealous followers, the mysterious midwife, among others. there is snake handling, scary sermons, & a certain blin ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. 50 year old North Carolina private investigator Earl Marcus receives a letter informing him the woman who took him in for several years while he was a teenage is dying. Her grand daughter Mary who is a deputy sheriff asks him to come see her before she dies. In the letter is another unopened letter from a man who was a friend of his father. Earl's father RJ died a few months ago. However, there's a picture taken of RJ since his supposed burial. RJ was a fire and brimstone preacher wit ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was just one phenomenal book! Private investigator,Earl Marcus returns home to be with an old woman he loves and
feels obligated to as she is dying.
This begins a journey through a 30 year-old mystery full of guilt, shame , and his struggles with his his religious zealot father and his twisted congregation.
With supernatural overtones, this is a haunting and compelling beginning to an excellent new series. This one is a must read and I can't wait for more!
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rating: ★★★★☆+


2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner!

Eerie, intense, and masterfully-crafted, Hank Early’s gripping series debut Heaven’s Crooked Finger transports readers to a secretive community in the Georgia mountains.

Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamentalist rule of his father RJ’s church—a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. Bu
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-books, netgalley
Earl left the mountain town he was raised in thinking he would never, ever return there. When he gets word that the woman who helped him is dying, he returns but not just for her, but to also solve the mystery about whether his father is actually dead or has returned from the dead to continue leading his church. His father formed a church that handled snakes to prove their faith in God. When Earl was bitten and left to die or live he left. Earl's brother has now taken over the church. The whole ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't say this very often, but if I could give this book six stars out of five, I would. Hank Early, one of the alternate names that writer John Mantooth uses, is a phenomenal writer. This book reminded me of a fusion between Tom Piccirilli and William Faulkner. It was eerily good. The pacing was fantastic, the mysterious supernatural elements were on point, and the strained family relationships as well as guilt and inner turmoil of the protagonist were stupendously well done. I truly hope thi ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Side note, I stalk someone on goodreads. She reads (and loves) almost everything I do. So naturally when I saw she went gonzo for this book, I had to read it myself.

It starts out SO. GOOD. The background in Earl's early years, his crazy-ass snake handling daddy, his turning away from the church - I mean, I couldn't put it down. And then.

Then there is a mystery to solve. And honestly, at first the mystery had me going. But then
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
NOTE: This review originally appeared on New York Journal of Books:

There’s a new name in the mystery fiction scene, and that name is Hank Early. And with his debut novel Heaven’s Crooked Finger, he is quickly turning heads and garnering much-deserved attention and acclaim.

Heaven’s Crooked Finger is the narrative of Earl Marcus, a private detective. A childhood survivor of the abusive evangelical ways of his father, Reverend RJ Marcus, Earl has had his sha
Jessica Bronder
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Earl Marcus is the child of a fire and brimstone preacher in a small mountain town in Coulee County, Georgia. RJ Marcus is a Pentecostal preacher that strongly believes in the word of God. When Earl is bitten by a snake when he is seventeen he is essentially kicked out of church, his home, and hated by everyone in town. Thankfully a midwife by the name of Granny takes him in and finish raising him.

Year later Earl has moved on and now lives in North Carolina as a private investigator. He still ha
Kelly Kazek
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Put this book on your list, y’all. After southern literature, suspense and mystery are among my favorite genres, so I am always drawn to a combination of the two. Hank Early’s “Heaven’s Crooked Finger” was the perfect mix. It is set in the mountains of Georgia and Early’s description of the region is spot-on.
The novel’s hero, Earl Marcus, who is to be featured in a second book, is an appropriately gruff, closed-off investigator who has come home after 30 years to make peace with his traumatic c
Tobin Elliott
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, hard-copy
A book that took me over a month to read? What the hell? That's normally more of a career-spanning omnibus, or a 1000+ page comic book collection, not a just-over-three-hundred-page novel.

So, let it be said, the only thing that stopped me from reading this in the usual two to three days was that I started it just as I had to begin packing for a move and, during that time, the book was packed away, and was only found a few days ago. So, the length of time has nothing to do with the quality of the
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow! What a series debut for Hank Early!

The character of Earl Marcus was so vivid, complex and developed. He's a man at odds with the beliefs he was raised with and wanting to leave those beliefs, the memories of a zealot father and his painful past behind him.

The plot was suspenseful, well-crafted and absolutely riveting. It was so easy to forget that this was a fictional story. At times, it felt like you had fallen into the recitation of someone's actual life. Secrets and lies abound and add
Luanna Helena
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hank Early’s novel, Heaven’s Crooked Finger takes readers on a wild and unpredictable adventure through the rural Georgia mountains with detective, Earl Marcus, whose pursuit of truth causes countless enemies to relentlessly pursue him as well. This thrilling, and at times, chilling mystery, keeps readers guessing until the very last chapter.
Aliyah Brody
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: suspense
Very well-written suspense novel with thorough character development & surprising plot twists. This book is certainly a page-turner that I didn't want to put down. I am definitely looking forward to the next Earl Marcus mystery by Hank Early. ...more
Kathy Heare Watts
I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it a local library.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rounded up from 4.5. Interesting story that didn’t hook me initially but then had me staying up late to finish. Looking forward to the next Earl Marcus story.
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan Perkins
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hank Early has a knack for suspense. There were a few times when I wondered where he was going and how he was going to tie everything together but I don't thinks there were any loose ends left. Heavens Crooked Finger takes place in a remote backwards county where corrupt leaders use religion, punishment and murder to control its residence.

You'll find great characters, unique scenes and riveting suspense. The middle sagged a little for me and there were a few clunky parts that seemed way to strai
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow! This is the first book for Hank Early and I can't wait for the 2nd. It was a fantastic read! When Earl Marcus is called back to the Mountain area he has left behind and tried to forget for the last 30 years, the plot takes on twists and turns that will leave you wanting to leave your light on at night. Well done Hank Early!!
Dianne Landry
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-series
Thirty years ago Earl Marcus walked away from life in the Georgia mountains and his father, RJ, the hell and damnation preacher in a snake handlers' church. One day he gets a letter saying the woman who took him in after leaving the flock is dying and would like to see him. She also includes another letter from a follower of his father's. In it is a photo of RJ, taken about a month after his supposed death. The writer asks Earl to help him find his "resurrected" father.

Reluctantly Earl returns t
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-arc
Not only was this story believable, it was real enough that I almost felt like I was there in certain scenes. This was actually unfortunate during a not-so-fun scene involving snakes!

With themes of relationships, family-ties, and even a little faith, this is definitely much more than just a detective novel (not generally my first choice for go-to reading material). My only wish would've been for more of Granny; I know she's lying on her death bed but I liked her few little parts and would've lo
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Hank Early spent much of his youth in the mountains of North Georgia, but he never held a snake or got struck by lightning. These days, he lives in central Alabama with his wife and two kids. He writes crime, watches too much basketball, and rarely sleeps. Heaven's Crooked Finger is his first novel. He's represented by Alec Shane of Writers House.

In a previous life, he published some books as Joh

Other books in the series

Earl Marcus (3 books)
  • In the Valley of the Devil (Earl Marcus, #2)
  • Echoes of the Fall (Earl Marcus, #3)

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