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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hard boiled dick with a twist
This is a gripping read. Bobby Dollar isn't your average gumshoe with a penchant for a pretty face...and his world isn't the sleazy world of Chandler, Hammett, or McBain..... he is American, but you can't have everything, heh heh.
Our Mr D is in fact Doloriel, an angel advocate and once-upon-a-time soldier of Heaven... the equivalent of Heavens Commandos, no...
Published 24 months ago by R. A. Caton

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Idea But Waaaaay Too Long
Before picking up 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' (TDSOH) I had never read a book by Tad Williams. I was vaguely aware of his work, but had never felt a desire to try any of it. Having finally finished TDSOH I can't say that feeling has changed.

TDSOH is essentially a urban-fantasy noir-ish detective story where the twist is that the 'PI' is an Angel and many...
Published 20 months ago by C. Green


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hard boiled dick with a twist, 26 July 2012
By 
R. A. Caton "Arcaton" (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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This is a gripping read. Bobby Dollar isn't your average gumshoe with a penchant for a pretty face...and his world isn't the sleazy world of Chandler, Hammett, or McBain..... he is American, but you can't have everything, heh heh.
Our Mr D is in fact Doloriel, an angel advocate and once-upon-a-time soldier of Heaven... the equivalent of Heavens Commandos, no less.
His task is to greet the newly deceased and defend them at their Judgement against his opposite number from...the Other Place. Which exists and isn't the place you want to be sentenced to because there is NO appeal. And the Other Side play dirtier than the Mob.
What happens to our guy - and he has no idea even what *has* happened - drops him into direct conflict with some very high ranking Enemies indeed - and they have ways of Enforcement....
I'm not going to tell you more. Suffice it to say that I couldn't put this thing down until I'd cleared the mysteries, heard the explanations, and seen the final twists (oh yes, there's more than one!).
The next volumes in the series should be Happy Hour In Hell (due 2013) and Sleeping Late On Judgement Day (due 2014) - that's not for sure, this was a proof copy and there's always scope for change, but I WANT to see them, I WANT to read them. Bobby Dollar is an engaging guy, for an angel.

For those of you who have a fixed view of the afterlife, by the way, if you can accept the idea of a badass hard livin' angel whose main function is to argue the case for delegated Divine mercy you won't be presented with anything blasphemous here. Within the story and the universe Tad Williams has created things hang together logically without making comment adverse or otherwise on spiritual beliefs in our world.
Enjoy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cross between a thriller and a detective novel with a whole lot of fantasy mixed in, 1 Sep 2012
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M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Bobby Dollar - or the Angel Doloriel - helps guide souls to Heaven once they've passed on. It's his job as an advocate to battle the minions of Hell in a courtroom for each soul's afterlife, fighting to save as many souls as possible, even when they have to spend some time in Purgatory first. But when a soul disappears, right underneath his nose, without ever having appeared to himself or Hell's advocate, and then keeps happening, normality is uprooted and both sides are in crisis. Dollar feels compelled to investigate, but as he gets closer to the truth, he finds himself accused of theft, chased by an ancient monster, and madly in lust with Hell's most attractive demon.

Compared to Tad Williams' epic fantasies, this book is a speedy, exciting read, a cross between a thriller and a detective novel with a whole lot of fantasy mixed in. The concepts behind the novel are actually quite epic in themselves; we get a full description of his version of Heaven and Hell, and Bobby frequently tries to describe what Heaven's like (since he is an angel). He might be in an improvised courtroom, but he does in fact help determine the eternal fate of people, which is not a small-town job in the slightest.

As an angel, Bobby is naturally somewhat tougher than a normal human, even though he wears a human body; he can still be killed, but usually angels reincarnate in new bodies. He's done it before, but it's never a guarantee, which means he is relatively careful and does try not to get too badly beaten up in the pursuit of answers. It's really common in practically all urban fantasy novels for the main character to not sleep and suffer severe injuries that would probably kill another character, so this little caveat is very handy.

I didn't love this book as much as I'd hoped, unfortunately; compared to the pace of a normal urban fantasy, I actually found parts of it moved slowly, and there was a lot of description as the world was built. Bobby is a good character, with a snarky attitude, but I wasn't really drawn into his feelings towards Casimira, the demon, or his attitude towards women in general. I felt as though the book had a huge amount of potential, but never really swept me up and carried me away as a good book should. I'm hoping that subsequent books in the series stop with so much description and make me feel more attached to the characters in general. It's been known to happen and I certainly hope it happens here.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven would be a good choice for a reader who already enjoys Tad Williams' work and is looking for something a little less like a doorstopper, but it's not quite up there with some of the other fantastic urban fantasy series. It could be, but he's not quite there yet.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detective novel, seamlessly moved to heaven, 25 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Bobby Dollar is an angel. He's an advocate; an angel sent to the recently deceased and argue for the side of light when they are judged. But something has gone wrong - there are dead bodies without souls and something is hunting Bobby, something big and extremely ugly.

This is a great book. Having read many of Tad Williams' other books (Otherland, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, War of the Flowers) it's funny to see him switch to the thriller / detective genre so effortlessly. And this is exactly what this is - it's a detective story, set in heaven and earth with a scattering of demons.

All the elements are there - an angel with a grumpy attitude and a murky past, a rookie who asks too many questions, a beautiful dame (who just happens to be a hell-spawned demon), a wealth of bad guys, bureaucracy in the 'office' and a load of secret contacts and complications.

For those of you familiar with Tad Williams' work, I'll reassure you that this is one of his more concise works - it's well-paced (even more so that War of the Flowers) and moves along very nicely without getting bogged down in the details.

My only real complaint is that it's not mind-blowing. It's a good solid book, very enjoyable and readable. But it didn't have me absolutely hooked, compelled to read on - but those books are few and far between, I think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to form for Tad Williams, 20 Aug 2012
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Bobby Dollar is an angel who serves as an advocate for the recently deceased. Whenever someone dies, their soul is fought over by Heaven and Hell, with advocates from both sides competing for it. Dollar's latest case is complicated when the soul in question vanishes, and even the infernal legions of Hell seem at a loss as to what's going on. As Dollar investigates, he uncovers ancient conspiracies, political infighting even amongst the ranks of the angels of Heaven and that he himself has been targeted by every supernatural gang in California. He just doesn't know why.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the opening novel in the Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams. Williams is best known for his shelf-destroying epic fantasies and the extremely slow pace of his novels. His recent Shadowmarch series suffered from a glacially ponderous structure that sometimes threatened to spill over into outright boredom. However, Williams's move into urban fantasy has been like a shot of pure storytelling adrenalin. The Dirty Streets of Heaven moves like a whippet with its tail on fire.

The book outlines its ground rules early on: Heaven and Hell are real, but their forces have been in a state of uneasy peace (or a Cold War) for millions of years. Complex rules govern their interactions. The relationship between the two sides shifts by location; Muslims, Jews and those of other faiths experience different results to those of nominally Christian denominations. Also, being an atheist is no help either. Spirits in Heaven have their memories wiped of their mortal lives, allowing them to start over, whilst those in Hell are damned by their previous actions and forced to recall them vividly. Given the low-key nature of a lot of urban fantasies, it's interesting to see Williams outlining an epic backdrop right from the very start.

Bobby Dollar is our only POV character (the novel is told from the first-person) and is a complex individual, nominally on the side of Light but a bit too fond of mortal vices like sex and drink. His superiors despair of his methods, but he gets results and remains loyal to the Highest (who hasn't been seen or head in eons), so is tolerated. Dollar has a bunch of allies and helpers, such as fellow angel Sam (who he was in the angel special forces with) and a superb information-broker who has unfortunately been cursed into a reversed werepig, only lucid and capable of intelligence speech between the hours of midnight and dawn when he is in the shape of a pig.

Freed from the language and technological constraints of medieval fantasy, Williams goes to town in this novel. The author is clearly having a lot of fun as he hits the reader with a lot of inventive ideas, fast-paced action scenes and decent moments of character introspection. The relatively short length (400 pages makes the book a novella by Williams's normal standards) means that the pace has to be fast and furious, packed with plot twists and revelations

The only complaint that the solution to the mystery in the book relies a little too much on the metaphysics of the setting, which have not been fully explained, so it's hard for the reader to solve the puzzle themselves (half the fun of a good mystery).

Beyond that, The Dirty Streets of Heaven (****) is Williams on top form, delivering a page-turning, highly inventive, fun read and his best book in a decade. The novel will be available on 4 September in the USA and on 13 September in the UK.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Idea But Waaaaay Too Long, 12 Nov 2012
By 
C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Before picking up 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' (TDSOH) I had never read a book by Tad Williams. I was vaguely aware of his work, but had never felt a desire to try any of it. Having finally finished TDSOH I can't say that feeling has changed.

TDSOH is essentially a urban-fantasy noir-ish detective story where the twist is that the 'PI' is an Angel and many of the characters involved are creatures of either Heaven or Hell. Set in the fictitious but contemporary city of San Judas, on the San Francisco Bay, the book is narrated by Bobby Dollar. Bobby is an Angel on earth and defender of recently departed souls on behalf of Heaven. As the story unfolds he also becomes amateur sleuth, investigating why some souls appear to be vanishing before they can be judged and dispatched to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. As with all film-noir detectives Bobby is cynical, world weary, beaten up, disillusioned and anti-authoritarian. Think a contemporary Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon but with wings.

At least I think that's what Tad Williams would like readers to imagine. Everything about the books screams out that it wants to offer a new, fantastical spin on classic detective motifs, from the seedy bar where the hero and all his friends hang-out, through the (literally) ice-cold femme-fatale, to the outwardly respectable but inwardly dastardly big boss with his lantern jawed henchmen. They and many other are all there, and many of them are interesting twists on old concepts and work very well.

Unfortunately the whole book suffers from two fatal flaws. The first is Williams writing style, which simply doesn't suit the genre he's trying to work in. Crime-noir needs to be punchy and hard edged, just like its protagonists. Dialogue and narrative both need to rattle along with the rat-a-tat tempo of a machine-gun. Prose needs to be spare and to-the-point. By comparison Williams writes like many fantasy authors; using three words when two would do. Brevity and conciseness are not his strong point. His dialogue doesn't fizz and the pace of the plot is just too slack.

He then compounds his error by giving the story too much flab. There is simply too much going on in the book. Detective stories require twists, double-crosses and blind alleys, but there are too many here. There are also too many incidental and unnecessary characters within the story, none of whom contribute anything but an extended page count. An example would be two ghosts who crop up in one lengthy scene. Its a nice concept and well executed, but adds nothing to the plot. It just slows the narrative down even further.

Overall TDSOH should have been half the length it actually is. It looks and feels like a typical-doorstep fantasy novel when it needs to be a far slimmer affair.

When I compare it to works by other writers working in the same genre it suffers by comparison, which is the book's other key flaw. If I compare it to Jim Butcher's Dresden series, even the early ones such as Storm Front: The Dresden Files Book One it doesn't even come close stylistically or in terms of plot and character. Butcher got the whole hard-boiled detective style spot on from the word go. The early Dresden novels are first and foremost great detectives stories with fantastical elements. Only once he had established the character of Dresden and his world did he begin to expand the books' scope and plots, but he has always maintained that hard-boiled style. Williams by comparison never offers up that same edge and tries to do to much world building too soon, burying the central plot in unnecessary detail and action and leaving it struggling for room to breathe.

The result is a book that is too long and struggled to hold my interest as its story went around in circles. There are other problems too, such as the whodunnit element being too obvious to anyone who has every read a detective story, plot holes you can drive a car through and some fantastical concepts that really don't work or are poorly explained, and when you compare it to works by the likes of Jim Butcher or Ben Aaronovitch it comes across as a second-rate effort.

Tad Williams may be a decent author when writing in his usual genres, but based on TDSOH urban-fantasy noir is simply not his strong suit. Having only just managed to finish this first Bobby Dollar adventure I will definitely not be returning for the next in the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philip Marlowe with wings, 23 Aug 2012
By 
Amazon Customer "m_farncombe" (Guildford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Tad Williams' novel has the most unlikely protagonist I've ever met - ex-member of the angelic equivalent of special forces, now a defender of souls and part-time gumshoe. Let me explain... Bobby Dollar (stupid name, that I assume is a nod to the 1940s noir thrillers that this tries to emulate) defends souls. When people die, his job is to defend them at their own personal judgement day, opposed by a demon prosecutor. When souls fail to show up for judgement, something is clearly wrong, and Bobby has to investigate. It's not that simple, of course, one of the Dukes of Hell has decided he has something stolen from him and puts a hit out on him, and Bobby (of course) falls in love with one of the demons (cue for some hot sex, ho ho ho).

It sounds stupid and it is, but to my considerable surprise, it works. It's dark and gripping in the same way as a Raymond Chandler novel is, the ending is neat but not too neat, and the eschatological stuff is nicely presented: your (atheist) review enjoyed the descriptions of heaven and hell and thought that the religious traps were neatly avoided. Bobby is a believable character as he really doesn't have a clue what is going on most of the time, even though he is an angel.

I raced through the second half of the book in one sitting, and wholeheartedly recommend it to Chandler fans, fantasy fans and possibly even hard SF fans. It works well as a stand-alone novel, although I anticipate there will be others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a lot of it about these days, 14 Aug 2012
By 
Ian Williams "ianw" (Sunderland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Urban Fantasy novels that is. There are so many I seem to be tripping over them. But that's my fault for leaving them on the floor of the room where I keep my books. Yes, I seem to be going through a UF phase at the moment and as they come in series that's quite a lot of books.

This one matches up to the best and has a very different premise. I wasn't too sure of it at first as it seemed to have a very fundamentalist approach in its traditional view of heaven and hell -God, angels, Satan, demons, souls going up or down or to purgatory- until it became clear that they were all non-denominational and things were a lot more complicated than it first seemed. Our hero, angel Bobby Dollar is an advocate for souls arguing for a client's right to go to heaven. But he's of an independent bent and gets in trouble, so much so that it's not clear if he can even trust his own side. And how come he's never met anyone who's actually met God?

I don't want to say too much or would spoil the pleasure of you finding out what's going on for yourself. Suffice to say that this Urban Fantasy is different enough from the usual run to make it well worth investigating and it's a very promising start to a new series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge scope, great delivery, 12 Aug 2012
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Christian (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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For me, a really good book not only touches you in some way but it also has a depth and layering of the story that feeds a much larger plot arc. Tad Williams here has written a book that truly fits the mould of a great opener to a trilogy. Not only does he lay out the characters and locations of San Jude, the city on earth where most of the story takes place; he also lays out the world in which the story takes place. Heaven and Hell are real. Angels are real and they have many different roles in their constant fight against demons. Enter Bobby Dollar.

Bobby Dollar is an advocate, he argues for the salvation of the recently deceased against the advocate demon. Something goes wrong on a routine call and the wider storyline unfolds.

What I really liked about this book was the scope of the story, by the end of the book things had definitely changed, the characters and their relationships would not be the same again. And the ending, as all good one's should, asked more questions than it gave answers. This left me really interested to see how the second and third parts of the trilogy play out.

I also did like the Bobby Dollar (Dolories) Character, you get the the sense that things are not all black and white and his ways of dealing in 'grey' is what is most desired about him in the plan for him. No matter how many Arch Angels he disappoints.

This is a world of many colours and I will definitely be seeing it through to the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inventive and fun read, 3 Aug 2012
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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I chose 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' because of the intriguing product description and it looked as though it would be a fun read, I wasn't disappointed. Bobby Dollar is an angel who spends most of his time in a 'meat' body down on Earth. He is an advocate, pleading for the souls of the newly deceased and trying to make a better case than the opposition; even though sometimes the best he can hope for is getting them a spot of time in purgatory. The fun starts when a soul goes missing, who is responsible, how could such a thing happen? Then more souls go missing and the high ups on both sides get increasingly worried. Meanwhile Bobby is being chased by demons who believe that he has something, this 'something' appears to be valuable but Bobby has no idea what it is or who has it. Heaven and hell have kept an uneasy truce going but the disappearing souls and the 'something' threaten to upset the balance.

At heart this is a hard-boiled detective novel where the characters just happen to be angels and demons, there is even a classic femme fatal in the guise of The Countess of Cold Hands. Even if you don't usually read fantasy but are a fan of classic hard-boiled American crime fiction then you might well enjoy this one. It is inventive and fun with a cast of very unusual characters. The writing style is engaging and although a few of the references to American culture escaped me it didn't spoil the reading experience. It should particularly appeal to fans of 'The Dresden Files' - Jim Butcher and 'The Night Watch Saga' - Sergei Lukyanenko.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non Angli sed Angeli (sorry), 30 July 2012
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Paul Lynch (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) (Hardcover)
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Most angels and heaven novels suck because they lack credibility. Don't get me wrong, this is nothing to do with religion, but because the background doesn't contain any of those details that ring true. After all, even Milton has some issues with it. The best of them, like Richelle Mead's Succubus series, confer credibility by just accepting the basis and brazening it out. With others, and I've read a few lately, the quirky lack of believability has to go alongside something else that distracts from thoses issues - like a hard on noir writing style, or overkill on romance (no names, no pack drill).

Tad Williams' "The Dirty Streets of Heaven" is something new. Sure, he's adopted the noir convention, but the worst part is the name of his protagonist - Bobby Dollar. Underlying all that is a carefully worked out, detailed and above all consistent world. He's even created a whole city, San Judas, in the Bay Area effectively replacing San Jose to set most of his action in, with some slight tweaks to the real history of Palo Alto, Stanford, Redwood City and the rest of the area. This is Heaven and Hell, with demons and guardian angels, but not quite as we might have imagined it. There's a lot going on underneath the basic plot of this novel, and I expect that will be used to build up a grader tale as the series progresses. There's also the potential for some serious metaphysical reflection.

In line with the noir tradition, nothing is revealed until it has to be, and there are no giveaways. Bobby isn't a detective, as he frequently has to point out, and maybe he's not quite smart enough.

The opening scenario is that Bobby is an advocate on earth for dead souls, and has to plead in front of a heavenly judge against a demonic advocate - and the result will be a soul to suffer eternal damnation, heaven, or purgatory with the prospect of eventual heaven: and the rules are strict.

Then souls start vanishing, and Bobby is tied into the story, which involves a conspiracy linking both heaven and hell. That's all the plot I'm going to give away, and it gets complex.

The book is long; the edition I read was over 400 pages. There's plenty of action, some sex (this is adult, not young adult), although I felt it did lag a little in the middle, and wasn't moving forward fast enough for me - largely because it wasn't clear what the significance of the various events and revelations was.

I have read Tad Williams more traditional fantasies in the past, but a long time ago. I liked them well enough then, and this change of style works well for him. I enjoyed it a lot; he made the heaven and angels theme seem far more realistic and genuine than I have found in other books in this sub-genre. I will be watching out for the next in the series, and plan to back fill on some of the fantasies I skipped over.
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The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar)
The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar) by Tad Williams (Hardcover - 13 Sep 2012)
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