"The Trial of Fallen Angels," by James Kimmel, Jr. Amy Einhorn, 372 pp. $25.95.
Brek Cuttler wakes up in Shemaya Station wearing the silk skirt and shirt that she put on when she dressed herself that morning. Something is different, however. Brek Cuttler is dead.
Brek's last living memory was of going into the convenience store with her baby daughter, Sarah. They would stop in quickly for milk before heading home for the evening. Even thinking back to her life, she doesn't remember anything after that moment.
Shemaya Station is where all of the recently deceased go. They stumble off of the train, as tattered and beaten as they left the living world. Brek came to Shemaya with two bullet holes in her chest. Shortly into her stay at Shemaya, however, the holes disappeared, both from her body and from her clothing.
In her life, Brek was an attorney, searching for the technicalities in an agreement that could benefit her client. In one of her cases, her client purchased stocks with a loan he'd already defaulted on. If the bank had been previously aware, they would be barred from suing her client to recover their debt.
In "The Trial of Fallen Angels," justice is the only means of salvation. Shemaya is where the souls are sent to be judged. Their sentencing could take as long as 2,000 years. Brek's mentor, Luas, has been presenting Emperor Nero, Caesar, since he died.
Brek is assigned as a presenter. Her job is to enter the memories of the judged, to see their experiences and present them to God, who will make the final judgment.
Each of the souls she enters into, however, helps to further the answer to the one question she can't leave Shemaya without answering: how did I die?
"The Trial of Fallen Angels" spins off of an excellent concept, though isn't as engaging as it could have been. Brek is a wonderful character, complete with her own secrets as dark as some of the souls she presents. However, Kimmel spends almost too much time on the experiences of the others, and not enough on Brek's experience in the overall Shemaya, instead of just the courtroom.
The book is intended to be extremely captivating, allowing the reader deep into the lives of the characters and situations. The descriptions, however, don't offer the experience. Shemaya would be far more intriguing with more description.
"The Trial of Fallen Angels," is Kimmel's debut novel. His success with Brek likely stems off of his own career as a lawyer, studying the connections between the law and spirituality.
Even without Brek's profession, Kimmel's experience as a lawyer shows very clearly in the novel. Justice reigns above all. The real test is to understand the different angles justice can take, and to make the decision accordingly.