cover image The Gods Go Begging

The Gods Go Begging

Alfredo Vea, Author Dutton Books $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-94513-0

Mexican-American author and Vietnam vet V a's third novel (after La Maravilla) is a gritty, dark, and tightly wrapped tale of mystery, desire, hopelessness and death. A shocking double homicide; the nagging torment of Vietnam War flashbacks; a string of oddball, lowlife and scumbag clients; and his own tequila-clouded life make practicing law a daily ordeal for San Francisco defense attorney Jesse Pasadoble. And now dead soldier comrades and a crazy army chaplain from Jesse's Vietnam past have come back to both haunt and guide him as he struggles with his own demons and despair. Jesse is a cynical lawyer who believes ""an honest victim is as rare as an honest defendant."" When the two female owners of the Amazon Luncheonette are gunned down on the street, Jesse is tapped to defend the primary suspect, a scared and nearly illiterate local gangbanger called Bisquit Boy. The search leads him first to the culture of San Francisco's housing projects, then to the Vietnamese mob and, in an intensity of painful memories, through his own past. V a's third-person narration alternates between the present-day plot and Jesse's war experience; chapters flash back to the Asian jungle and the men Jesse fought alongside, among them the mysterious chaplain who holds the key to current events. Jesse's anguish actually heightens his awareness and allows him to finally unravel a Gordian knot of bizarre relationships, which not only brings justice for the victims, but a measure of peace to his own soul as well. V a composes his plot with great skill, leaving the reader strongly convinced of his story's credibility. (Aug.)