Beloved Gomorrah – Justine Saracen (Bold Strokes Books)

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Buy it direct from Bold Strokes Books

I can’t think of anything more incongruous than ancient
Biblical texts, scuba diving, Hollywood lesbians, and international art
installations but I do know that there’s only one author talented and savvy
enough to make it all work. That’s just what the incomparable Justine Saracen
does in her latest, Beloved Gomorrah.

Sculptor and scuba diver Joanna Boleyn is engaged in an art
project on a coral reef in the Red Sea. While diving to scope out her assigned
spot, she finds some cuneiform tablets—and gets attacked by a shark, attracted
by dead fish thrown from a yacht owned by film actress Kaia Kapulani.
Kapulani’s lowbrow agent/husband Bernie suggests they forestall a lawsuit by
paying Joanna’s hospital bills and inviting her onboard to recuperate. Kaia and
Joanna fall in love, of course, their affair complicated by Kaia’s marriage,
international intrigue, a bombing, a murder attempt and—oh yes—an ancient
re-telling of Sodom and Gomorrah that could rock all of organized religion.

This is a heady brew for anyone, but Saracen makes it all
not only accessible but damn fun to read. The debunking of the religious myth
could have been overwhelming, especially to atheists like myself, but Saracen
sets the scene, lays the background, and then sets off the bomb with
considerable restraint—just enough to parallel the affair between Joanna and
Kaia.

And that’s another tale. As fun as standing mythologies on
their heads may be, it’s not enough for entertaining fiction. For that, you
need an interesting plot and three-dimensional characters to work through it.
Again, Beloved Gomorrah comes up a winner. 

Joanna is a wonderful creation: adventurous, loving, and
passionate about her art. Kaia is more than a match for her—a woman on the
verge of shaking up her life and her career in more ways than one; an aging
actress ready to move into the next phase.

Saracen’s prose is efficient and purposeful; it’s
straightforward enough to get the point across and just showy enough to make
you grin while reading. My favorite example is this perfect sentence: “Seven
o’clock and the sky was just turning from whorish orange-fuschia-pink to
respectable blue.” It still makes me smile. She also has a great ear for
dialogue that sounds spoken instead of written.

Even if you’re not interested in Sodom and Gomorrah as
paradise or seeing avenging angels as terrorists, you’ll love being sucked
underwater by Saracen’s characters in this addictingly readable novel. Highly
recommended.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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