Skeletons in the Rain, by Christian Nava

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Christian Nava for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been approached by the author with an ARC of the book, I was curious to see what I might discover. Finally published in English, Nava’s book portrays the rough life in Venezuela and the issues the Church has when faced with a troubled past and gangs who rule the streets. Local priest, Ismael Niebuhr, has been holding onto a secret for a long time and wants out of the small community in which he has been a guiding light. Prepared to flee, Niebuhr is confronted with a gang known across Venezuela as being ruthless. The Skulls have targeted Niebuhr and continue to ask him one poignant question. Their leader, the Mime King, is not prepared to rest until he has all the answers. As the story progresses in a series of ever-advancing flashbacks, the reader learns of a horrible abuse that befell one of the alterboys under Niebuhr, but the truth is murky and clouded in much speculation. With the Skulls advancing and learning what they need to know, Niebuhr becomes expendable, but he cannot be left to tell what he knows about someone within the Skulls. The action progresses as the truth comes to the surface, though nothing is as clear as it might seem at first. Nava offers the reader something intriguing and worth a read, even if it did not resonate as powerfully with me as I might have hoped.

I always enjoy reading new authors and have found myself agreed to read pieces that authors themselves peddle. The issue is that sometimes I cannot be sure what I am getting into when I agree, left to accept the author’s self-praise and those of my fellow Goodreads reviewers. The book had some great moments, describing aspects of life in gangland Venezuela while also working on the clichéd history of the Catholic Church.. Nava’s development of the story and characters are not necessarily diluted when translated into English, though I did not feel the strong pull to “keep reading” as much as the story moved along at such a speed that I found the pages melted away. The premise was interesting and kept me guessing, though the constant layering of flashbacks that advanced to the present moment seemed almost overdone. I agree, it is a writing style that helps reveal things slowly and some readers enjoy that, but I suppose I was not in the mindset to want that. With short chapters and an ever-advancing plots Nava keeps the reader wondering and on the edge of their seat. There is a lot of potential here and I hope Nava can weave more of his master class work with an established author into his future work. He was proud to share that with me and I can only see great things as he publishes more.

Kudos, Mr. Nava, for an interesting piece. While it did not resonate as a blockbuster win for me, I think others will devour it. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: