Is it possible to con your way out of hell? That’s the question surrounding Deanne Blackhurst’s latest novel Sleight of Hand. Fifty-two year old Daniel Cabrero dies when a cons he’s running goes bad. After his death he finds himself in a purgatory-like place called the Wasteland. Aside from a guide named Jonah that comes and goes, Daniel is completely alone with only his memories of the past to keep him company. Eventually he realizes that his time in the Wasteland is only temporary and it’s up to him to ether redeem himself and move on to a place called Providence City or to a dark place from where there’s no return.
What I liked: The author did an excellent job of showing how one’s actions, for better or worse, affect other people. Many of the scenes where Daniel could see how his selfishness and scams hurt others people were very heart wrenching. The world of the Wasteland is also very creative and original. Though the Wasteland is very beautiful and many worldly pleasures can be conjured out of thing air but without anyone to share them with, the loneliness overshadows the world’s beauty. Daniel is also a solid character and the author does a good job of making Daniel’s eventual redeeming change feel natural and real—not an easy thing to do.
What could be improved: The relationship between Daniel and Jonah felt very stiff throughout the novel. While that worked at the beginning when they were getting to know each other, the relationship still felt rigid long after they had supposedly become friends. The book also could have used an edit. There were some glaring typos and transition issues that could have been fixed with the help of an editor.
Who would enjoy it: Though the book has a religious theme (concepts of right and wrong, heaven and hell) the author goes out of her way to create an afterlife something that someone from just about any faith could relate to. The book would probably be most enjoyed by those who are somewhat or very religious or have a belief in some kind of afterlife.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.