The Silver Cloud Cafe by Alfredo Véa, Jr.
The Silver Cloud Cafe is a novel that goes beyond and beneath. Beyond and beneath the glossy surface of San Francisco. Beyond and beneath the clean-scrubbed image of American life. It goes to the Mission District, where two neon angels stand watch over the ramshackle cantina known as Raphael's Silver Cloud Cafe and where the lost and lonely, desperate and dispossessed, come for a meager portion of solace and salvation in the form of companionship, drink, and sex. It goes to the dark waters under the Fourth Street Bridge, where the corpse of a failed priest surfaces, and to the jailhouse, where a nattily dressed midget takes credit and demands punishment for the crime. This amazing novel is at once a gripping murder mystery that probes two macabre killings forty years apart and a panoramic meditation on the magical, mystical mix of race and culture in America. Its spellbinding story of intertwining guilt and innocence, crime and punishment, ranges over the century, from the bloody Christero Wars of the Mexican Revolution to the stifling rigidities of class and caste in the Philippines to the bitter harvests of migrants in the California farmlands to the feeding frenzy and human downsizing of the 1990s. Its characters include a Chicano lawyer and a Jewish investigator who have seen too much and believe too little; a Mexican priest torn by twin lusts for sex and vengeance; a black ex-boxer who is down but not out; a bar owner with a sense of divine mission; and a host of other unforgettable men and women who join in a superbly orchestrated symphony of voices and visions.