Review

Little Faith

by Michael Simon



Michael Simon is one of the most brilliant voices in crime fiction
today. His prose is informed by a world-weary wisdom that is only
acquired through the payment of dear and bitter coin, and it is the
jambalaya of Simon's vocational background --- he's been an
educator, a playwright and a probation officer --- that gives the
characters who wander with deliberate intent into and out of his
novels their drossy film. There is also a quiet urban terror born
of ill fortune that permeates his work, particularly that of LITTLE
FAITH, his third novel in as many years to feature Dan Reles of the
Austin Homicide Squad.


At the beginning of the book Reles finds himself embroiled in the
dangerous politics of the Austin Police Department, even as he is
assigned to investigate the lonely death of a teenager named Faith
Copeland --- the "little Faith" of this dark novel's title.
Copeland, it develops, is a one-time child actor whose illusory
star rose and fell some time ago. How she came to die in a bathtub
in an Austin slum tenement is only part of a riddle whose answer
can be found miles from the rough streets where she lived and
died.


Meanwhile, Reles also finds his personal life in a shambles. Simon,
who seems incapable of writing a bad or wasted word, really shines
when dragging his characters through the detritus of their romantic
relationships. Any male readers who have found themselves attracted
to (or have themselves attracted) women otherwise best avoided will
find passages of LITTLE FAITH to be painful yet familiar and
ultimately revelatory reading. The sad truth here is that twos
don't date tens: Reles, despite his good intentions, is at heart
badly damaged and continues to throw himself into the
grinders.


An enigma to the Austin police force, the only New Yorker and the
only Jew on the force, the imaginary bell around his neck is
visible to all. It appears that he's unwelcome in the city in which
he resides and serves, though he's not alone in Simon's vision of
Austin. Nothing goes well, except for a privileged few, and no good
deed goes unpunished, no matter how deeply someone is buried in the
social strata. For but one: A police raid is erroneously visited
upon a home where a children's party is being held, and an innocent
mother is wrongfully imprisoned, which leads to a slow-motion,
heart-rending tragedy. Simon lets things unravel right in front of
the reader on the page, not around the corner or outside the book
or anywhere else. The narrative chugs away to a bad end but is told
in language so compelling that one keeps reading anyway. And the
aftermath, as is so often the case, is worse than the preceding
result.


Simon begins dropping bombs in LITTLE FAITH early on and doesn't
let up until the very last page. However, don't mistake the uneasy
quiet at the conclusion for the end of hostilities. Simon leaves
enough unexploded ordinance lying around to ignite at least another
few novels, and he is surely more than up to the task. Very highly
recommended.


   










Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 30, 2010

Little Faith
by Michael Simon

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143112317
  • ISBN-13: 9780143112310