Heaven's Crooked Finger (Earl Marcus #1)
Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamental rule of his father RJ's church--a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl's home. The photograph is dated long after his father's burial, and there's no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive. As Earl returns to Church of the Holy Flame searching for the truth, faithful followers insist that his father has risen to a holy place high in the mountains. Nobody will talk about the teenage girls who go missing, only to return with strange tattoo-like marks on their skin. Rumors swirl about an old well that sits atop one of the mountains, a place of unimaginable power and secrets. Earl doesn't know what to believe, but he has long been haunted by his father, forever lurking in the shadows of his life. Desperate to leave his sinful Holy Flame childhood in the past, Earl digs up deeply buried secrets to discover the truth before time runs out and he's the one put underground in Heaven's Crooked Finger.

Heaven's Crooked Finger (Earl Marcus #1) Details

TitleHeaven's Crooked Finger (Earl Marcus #1)
Author
ReleaseNov 7th, 2017
PublisherCrooked Lane Books
ISBN-139781683313915
Rating
GenreThriller, Mystery Thriller, Mystery, American, Southern, Fiction

Heaven's Crooked Finger (Earl Marcus #1) Review

  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
    January 1, 1970
    Earl left the mountains of North Georgia thinking that he would never return. He then receives news that the lady he calls Granny is dying and he owes her the respect of going to visit. He also receives a weird photo that shows his Daddy..postdated after his dad's death.Earl's Daddy was the preacher of the Church of the Holy Flame. He believed that God would strike you pretty much dead for everything. His word is law in the small north GA town and he had disowned Earl years ago. Earl was sevente Earl left the mountains of North Georgia thinking that he would never return. He then receives news that the lady he calls Granny is dying and he owes her the respect of going to visit. He also receives a weird photo that shows his Daddy..postdated after his dad's death.Earl's Daddy was the preacher of the Church of the Holy Flame. He believed that God would strike you pretty much dead for everything. His word is law in the small north GA town and he had disowned Earl years ago. Earl was seventeen years old when he fell from his Daddy's godly ways. He was bitten by a snake during the church service because his faith just wasn't strong enough. He finally was turned away from his family and the town when he continued to not live up to his Daddy's version of God's laws. He was taken in by the local midwife who he calls Granny. Earl's return to town is not such a happy occasion for the members of his Daddy's church..they pretty much still hate him. And then there's that rumor that his Daddy has risen from the grave just like he prophesied. And now young girls are showing up either dead or with strange tattoo like markings on their bodies.You would think that this type of church doesn't exist anymore?I don't know of any now in our area (North GA where the book is set) but I ran from the church years ago. I know that the power of the church is still alive and well in our area and there is almost fear to speak against anything that is believed inside those walls. Fear makes people do strange things. I could see the power of Earl's Daddy come alive in these pages. I've been to churches in this area that totally make me think that the storyline in this book could happen. Lots of power to men that preach the gospel, people want to believe. They feel that fear in so many different ways. Like having to make sure that their tithing is met, no matter if they go hungry. (I have a friend who does this still-she refuses to miss a week even if she can't pay her electric bill). I've also seen public shaming in church. I think most people are like Earl.....I had always wanted to believe in something. I still do so they keep going and believing.This book blends the religious fanaticism with the mystical very well. Plus it's just damn good. I'll read whatever this author puts out next.We swung by the "pawn shop," which was nothing more than a double-wide trailer on blocks with a large posterboard attached to one of the windows that read, "Als' Fire-Arm's and Pown." It looked like it had been written by a fourth grader who was well on his way to failing the year. For the second time.Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
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  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    Some people can reform, and some people just get by the best they can with their flaws. I’m the second kind.this is the first book in a southern crime fiction series that i’m going to devour as soon as they are written. there’s a lot to appreciate here - good atmosphere and description, appealingly flawed antihero protagonist, southern gothic flourishes, and a little romance, if you’re into that sort of thing. it’s grit lit-adjacent by virtue of its isolated deep-in-the-mountains-of-north-georgi Some people can reform, and some people just get by the best they can with their flaws. I’m the second kind.this is the first book in a southern crime fiction series that i’m going to devour as soon as they are written. there’s a lot to appreciate here - good atmosphere and description, appealingly flawed antihero protagonist, southern gothic flourishes, and a little romance, if you’re into that sort of thing. it’s grit lit-adjacent by virtue of its isolated deep-in-the-mountains-of-north-georgia population, bound together by history, secrecy, and the influence of the snake-handling church of the holy flame, whose charismatic, recently-deceased preacher rj marcus has been seen - and photographed - after his body was buried, giving credence to his claims that he would conquer death itself and preserving the legacy of fear, awe, and power he inspired among his flock. rj’s estranged son earl has been working as a private investigator in north carolina, cut off from his father and his brother lester for thirty years, vowing never to return to the hometown where he was humiliated, betrayed, and abandoned as a teenager. he receives a letter from a man named bryant mccauley, one of his father’s most devoted followers, containing photographic proof that rj is still alive, along with a plea to come help him track rj down - an invitation earl finds easy to ignore. less easy to ignore is the letter accompanying it, from mary hawkins, the biological granddaughter of the woman known to all as “granny,” who took earl in after his father cast him out. now over a hundred years old, the still-sharp granny has pancreatic cancer and would like to see earl before she dies, so he ventures back to coulee county to pay his respects and finds himself investigating a string of seemingly related crimes against teenaged girls that stretches back decades, struggling to find answers in a community still very much under rj’s influence, where he is plagued by visions, his own metaphorical demons, and some very real snakes. it’s a very strong series opener. i like rufus (although his charm is somewhat compromised by his “describe to me all the boobies” insistence), i love goose the dog, and i love a good fire n’ brimstone community - so much potential for misguidedly criminal zealotry. so even though there are some iffy bits, like that first exchange between earl and ronnie thrash, where Tough Guys Talk Tough in a way that made my remaining ovary roll its eye, it’s also got some moments with a sharper descriptive edge, many of which involve earl’s relationship to his father and his version of god.”He talks to you?” my seven-year-old self persisted, trying to wrap my head around the possibility.He put me down. “He does. It started when I was a boy not much older than you. He told me it’ll happen with you or Lester too.”I swallowed hard. I did not want God to talk to me. As bad as I feared hell, I’d come to fear God and heaven more.The moment ended with him asking me to kneel and pray with him. When we rose, he was smiling again.“What?” I asked.“God told me where that pig was.”And he was right, too. We found the pig a few minutes later, and I watched - memorizing the look of smug accomplishment on his face - as he picked it up by its legs, ignoring its pitiful squeals for mercy, as only a true man of God could do. i’m not sure where earl goes from here, or if the ooOOOoo supernatural whispers are going to become a more prominent part of the action, but i’m certainly interested enough to stick with it and find out.
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  • Jo
    January 1, 1970
    Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I Well, I'll be. Another hidden gem. I had not heard anything about this book before seeing it on Netgalley. I was immediately drawn to the cover, and then when I read the synopsis, I thought I would give it a try. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a 5 star read. I have always been fascinated with cults and how religion can warp and twist an individual. I thought Earl's thoughts and experiences were dead on. The characters were so well done, I felt like I knew each one personally. I love Granny! I am very much looking forward to the next one.
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  • Randy
    January 1, 1970
    This was just one phenomenal book! Private investigator,Earl Marcus returns home to be with an old woman he loves and feels obligated to as she is dying. This begins a journey through a 30 year-old mystery full of guilt, shame , and his struggles with his his religious zealot father and his twisted congregation. With supernatural overtones, this is a haunting and compelling beginning to an excellent new series. This one is a must read and I can't wait for more!
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  • Kurt Dinan
    January 1, 1970
    I have no proof, but I think Hank Early may be the illegitimate son of crime writer extraordinaire James Lee Burke. In style, plotting, and philosophical musings, Early's first novel with haunted and reluctant detective Earl Marcus is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Burke's Robicheaux novels. Not that Early hasn't carved out his own literary space here. Set in the mysterious Georgia mountains, Early's created a perfectly crafted world of secret communities, religious sects, and haunted past I have no proof, but I think Hank Early may be the illegitimate son of crime writer extraordinaire James Lee Burke. In style, plotting, and philosophical musings, Early's first novel with haunted and reluctant detective Earl Marcus is the perfect fit for anyone who loves Burke's Robicheaux novels. Not that Early hasn't carved out his own literary space here. Set in the mysterious Georgia mountains, Early's created a perfectly crafted world of secret communities, religious sects, and haunted pasts. Throw in a lot of snakes, some missing teenagers, and detective returning to face a past he's run from for decades, and this is one the most exciting crime debuts in years.
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  • Jeri
    January 1, 1970
    Earl left the mountain town he was raised in thinking he would never, ever return there. When he gets word that the woman who helped him is dying, he returns but not just for her, but to also solve the mystery about whether his father is actually dead or has returned from the dead to continue leading his church. His father formed a church that handled snakes to prove their faith in God. When Earl was bitten and left to die or live he left. Earl's brother has now taken over the church. The whole Earl left the mountain town he was raised in thinking he would never, ever return there. When he gets word that the woman who helped him is dying, he returns but not just for her, but to also solve the mystery about whether his father is actually dead or has returned from the dead to continue leading his church. His father formed a church that handled snakes to prove their faith in God. When Earl was bitten and left to die or live he left. Earl's brother has now taken over the church. The whole town is either believers or "heathens". Earl had also gotten a photo in the mail showing his father after his death as alive as ever. This book was a very good read. Though I was not raised in the mountains where these type of churches seem to thrive, I do come from a small town where not much has changed since the 30's-40's. Earl makes a nice main character and I would be interested to see where his life goes from here. The book did not leave you hanging like most do if the author makes a series of them. I was given an eARC by the publisher through NetGalley.
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  • Hank Early
    January 1, 1970
    Even though I've read my own book, it would be weird to review it, right? So, I'm going to leave my first trade review here...Starred Review from Kirkushttps://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re..."You won’t put down this powerful and painful tale, the first in a planned series, until you’ve seen its unlikely hero explore all the avenues of love, hate, deception, and faith and unravel a gripping mystery."
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  • A.E.
    January 1, 1970
    I don't say this very often, but if I could give this book six stars out of five, I would. Hank Early, one of the alternate names that writer John Mantooth uses, is a phenomenal writer. This book reminded me of a fusion between Tom Piccirilli and William Faulkner. It was eerily good. The pacing was fantastic, the mysterious supernatural elements were on point, and the strained family relationships as well as guilt and inner turmoil of the protagonist were stupendously well done. I truly hope thi I don't say this very often, but if I could give this book six stars out of five, I would. Hank Early, one of the alternate names that writer John Mantooth uses, is a phenomenal writer. This book reminded me of a fusion between Tom Piccirilli and William Faulkner. It was eerily good. The pacing was fantastic, the mysterious supernatural elements were on point, and the strained family relationships as well as guilt and inner turmoil of the protagonist were stupendously well done. I truly hope this novel receives the recognition it deserves when it comes time for it to be nominated, and I hope that more people read this novel because it is amazingly good. Even though it is set in a tiny Southern town, it still definitely has that delicious Southern Gothic feel to it. Highly recommended!
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  • Tam
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! What a series debut for Hank Early! The character of Earl Marcus was so vivid, complex and developed. He's a man at odds with the beliefs he was raised with and wanting to leave those beliefs, the memories of a zealot father and his painful past behind him. The plot was suspenseful, well-crafted and absolutely riveting. It was so easy to forget that this was a fictional story. At times, it felt like you had fallen into the recitation of someone's actual life. Secrets and lies abound and add Wow! What a series debut for Hank Early! The character of Earl Marcus was so vivid, complex and developed. He's a man at odds with the beliefs he was raised with and wanting to leave those beliefs, the memories of a zealot father and his painful past behind him. The plot was suspenseful, well-crafted and absolutely riveting. It was so easy to forget that this was a fictional story. At times, it felt like you had fallen into the recitation of someone's actual life. Secrets and lies abound and add to the rich flavor of the already well-spiced storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was truly impressed.*I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley & Crooked Lane Books in order to read and provide a voluntary and honest review, should I choose to do so.
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  • Luanna Helena
    January 1, 1970
    Hank Early’s novel, Heaven’s Crooked Finger takes readers on a wild and unpredictable adventure through the rural Georgia mountains with detective, Earl Marcus, whose pursuit of truth causes countless enemies to relentlessly pursue him as well. This thrilling, and at times, chilling mystery, keeps readers guessing until the very last chapter.
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  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 starsDefinitely not the last Earl Marcus story I'll be reading.This was a great first book,telling a story with twists,turns and religious nuts,without feeling like being bashed on the head with scene setting for future stories in the series.Earl himself seems like a big bold character,with enough baggage and compassion to keep me interested a while.A good mix of madness,brutality and mystery.Will welcome book 2.
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  • Mandi
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Side note, I stalk someone on goodreads. She reads (and loves) almost everything I do. So naturally when I saw she went gonzo for this book, I had to read it myself.It starts out SO. GOOD. The background in Earl's early years, his crazy-ass snake handling daddy, his turning away from the church - I mean, I couldn't put it down. And then.Then there is a mystery to solve. And honestly, at first the mystery had me going. But then I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Side note, I stalk someone on goodreads. She reads (and loves) almost everything I do. So naturally when I saw she went gonzo for this book, I had to read it myself.It starts out SO. GOOD. The background in Earl's early years, his crazy-ass snake handling daddy, his turning away from the church - I mean, I couldn't put it down. And then.Then there is a mystery to solve. And honestly, at first the mystery had me going. But then the story started sagging worse than a $2 mattress. There was no spark driving this part of the story the way there had been in the beginning.The mystery is solved, the bad guys get got, our hero gets the girl (although I do see the door open for a move in a new direction). It was a good mystery, it had some really good twists and descriptions. It just seemed a bit self-conscious towards the big reveal.Overall, 4 stars. Earl is a good leading man, and I hope to see more of him.
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  • Rachael
    January 1, 1970
    Not only was this story believable, it was real enough that I almost felt like I was there in certain scenes. This was actually unfortunate during a not-so-fun scene involving snakes! With themes of relationships, family-ties, and even a little faith, this is definitely much more than just a detective novel (not generally my first choice for go-to reading material). My only wish would've been for more of Granny; I know she's lying on her death bed but I liked her few little parts and would've lo Not only was this story believable, it was real enough that I almost felt like I was there in certain scenes. This was actually unfortunate during a not-so-fun scene involving snakes! With themes of relationships, family-ties, and even a little faith, this is definitely much more than just a detective novel (not generally my first choice for go-to reading material). My only wish would've been for more of Granny; I know she's lying on her death bed but I liked her few little parts and would've loved more.I'm glad to see that this is the first of a series, hopefully Earl has a few more intriguing adventures in his future.favorite quote:“I do hate him. But I also love him. In the end, aren’t they the very same thing? Don’t they both take a back seat to what you fear?"*received free from netgalley.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    Hank Early's novel featuring private investigator Earl Marcus drew me in with the first sentence. Pretty much everything about 2017 works in some sort of odd collusion to destroy faith of any kind; it feels like there is little wonderment in this world right now, and Earl Marcus knows it. Marcus tells us that his religious faith was destroyed as a teenager, despite his desperate longing to believe and to thus secure his snake-handler North Georgia preacher father’s love and approval. The detecti Hank Early's novel featuring private investigator Earl Marcus drew me in with the first sentence. Pretty much everything about 2017 works in some sort of odd collusion to destroy faith of any kind; it feels like there is little wonderment in this world right now, and Earl Marcus knows it. Marcus tells us that his religious faith was destroyed as a teenager, despite his desperate longing to believe and to thus secure his snake-handler North Georgia preacher father’s love and approval. The detective recalls that longing, and explains that it was a “visceral thing, a tingle deep inside me, an itch, a fiery rash swelling across the hidden skin of my heart.” But, in an instant, father and son let each other down and their relationship is destroyed. (Don’t get me wrong here: it’s clear that Earl could have lit himself on fire and failed to win any sort of sympathy from his father.)Middle-aged, deeply flawed, and hard-drinking Earl loves and loathes his family in the way abused people often do. His adult relationships are few and he keeps to himself until a letter and a phone call pull him back to his childhood home from his safe but colorless life in North Carolina. It’s important to me to not reveal the plot beyond the book’s cover material because the plot is uniquely compelling—the author is clearly a reader of horror novels, and there are several moments in Heaven’s Crooked Finger when I had to lift my eyes from the page to check my own surroundings. Religious fervor? Missing girls? Snake-handling? Holy cow! At times Earl Marcus’s fear is visceral. The author surprised me and outwitted me at every turn in this book and I was genuinely unable to figure out exactly what was going to happen next. Hank Early’s use of language is occasionally poetic. He knows the raptures of young love and allows Marcus to recall those moments, but the detective’s shame at his youthful behavior, a product of his father’s cruelty, is part of what hardens his heart as an adult. Upon return to the North Georgia mountains, though, Marcus appreciates the cooler air and the scent of the earth and softens enough to enjoy reacquainting himself with the one adult who cared about him as a teen. The cast of characters is colorful; though Marcus doesn’t think of himself as particularly brave, he confronts problems and works to answer questions throughout the book. He takes time to repair a relationship that is important to him. By the end of Heaven’s Crooked Finger, Earl Marcus possesses a couple of things he lacked at the beginning: a little bit of faith, in himself and in a kinder God than the one his father terrified him over; and some understanding about the greater questions in his life. The highest praise I can give a detective novel is twofold: I cannot wait for the next one, and I will reread this one. Earl Marcus now has a firm spot on my list of favorite screwed-up detectives.I received this advanced reader's copy of Heaven's Crooked Finger from the author and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to read it. I'm going to post this review on my blog, too:https://judgmentalreaderblog.wordpres...
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    A gripping story! This book is full of twists and turns that kept me interested from the first page. The characters are captivating; the plot is unique; the pacing is superb; the setting is appropriate; the writing is excellent. What more could you want in this entertaining read? Hope there is another Earl Marcus book in the future.I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
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  • Bracken
    January 1, 1970
    [Review coming soon]
  • Kathy Heare Watts
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it a local library.
  • Elaine Tomasso
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to thank Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance copy of Heaven's Crooked Finger, the first novel in a projected series featuring PI Earl Marcus, set in the mountains of northern Georgia.30 years ago after a rift with his family Earl left the mountains and his insular community for a new life in North Carolina. He has never been back and doesn't want to but when he gets a letter that Granny, a woman who helped him in the past, is dying and wants to see him before she dies he I would like to thank Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance copy of Heaven's Crooked Finger, the first novel in a projected series featuring PI Earl Marcus, set in the mountains of northern Georgia.30 years ago after a rift with his family Earl left the mountains and his insular community for a new life in North Carolina. He has never been back and doesn't want to but when he gets a letter that Granny, a woman who helped him in the past, is dying and wants to see him before she dies he doesn't hesitate. Enclosed with the letter is a second letter containing a picture of his dead father, implying that he is still alive. He wants nothing to do with it but gets involved when he finds out that the sender, Bryant McCauley is missing.I thoroughly enjoyed Heaven's Crooked Finger as it is a real page turner. I got caught up in it from the first page and didn't put it down until I'd finished. I'm not sure where to start as there is so much going on and it all meshes together well into a very good read. I like the plot which is quite unusual and could probably only happen and be believable in its setting. It is well paced and you think initially that you know all about Earl and his dysfunctional upbringing but as the novel continues the revelation of more and more secrets puts the lie to this and it's both gripping and fascinating - no wonder he drinks!Earl comes from the Bible Belt where there is a strong Pentecostal tradition but the Church of the Holy Flame and its preacher RJ Marcus, Earl's father, are extreme fundamentalists. An early observation by Earl on his father really caught my eye "My father ... believed in the almighty power of God and the strictest interpretation of good and evil. If he ever found a gray area in all his days, I wasn't privy to it; there was the Holy Scripture and there was everything else". Of course this faith includes the handling of venomous snakes which the novel mention in the first sentence. It's a strange world to most of us and as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that it is also a dangerous one to anyone less than wholly submissive to its tenets. I found this insular, claustrophobic world absolutely fascinating as it is so far removed from my life and experiences.Earl himself is very obviously damaged by his early experiences in this world. He drinks too much and finds it impossible to sustain a relationship. It is no wonder that he is extremely wary about returning. His first person narrative is excellent with an inviting tone. It is peppered with both anecdotes from his childhood and brutal self analysis while maintaining the pacy plot. He is pretty sure his father hasn't "ascended" i.e. risen from the dead as his congregants believe but proving it is a dangerous proposition in the face of a hostile environment. He faces adversity with more courage and tenacity than he believed he owned. The only part of his character I found difficult to believe is the dreams/visions he's had since he was bitten by a venomous snake.Heaven's Crooked Finger is a very good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.
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  • Karina
    January 1, 1970
    Earl Marcus returns to his birthplace, a very rural area in North Georgia, after rumours of sightings of his father(after his death )have reached him. He left this area, his father and especially a rather weird (we're talking ordeals by snakes here)and intense evangelical church community where his father was a very charismatic preacher and leader, some 30 years previously. Not much has changed,the church still has fervent followers, moonshine is still drunk and the whole area still feels prett Earl Marcus returns to his birthplace, a very rural area in North Georgia, after rumours of sightings of his father(after his death )have reached him. He left this area, his father and especially a rather weird (we're talking ordeals by snakes here)and intense evangelical church community where his father was a very charismatic preacher and leader, some 30 years previously. Not much has changed,the church still has fervent followers, moonshine is still drunk and the whole area still feels pretty isolated from the rest of the world. To make matters worse, young girls go missing and return completely disoriented, anxious and with strange marks on their bodies.This is a very atmospheric novel,one can feel the claustrophobic sensation and the threat of approaching thunderstorms.But as the story evolves,the storyline starts to unravel and the last half/quarter of the book could do with some serious editing. Pity...
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