Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory

Ooh how exciting. I approached the table and there were not one, not two but three new members! Except, wait, no, two are standing up, they are actually walking away, come back!!!! I smile, firmly block their path and say 'book club?' 'No we thought you were going to talk about Angels and Angel Cards' ????????? I quickly side step to let them passed whilst frantically trying to remember whether I had put words 'Cramlington Book Club' on the signs. Yes pretty sure I had. In quite large font. They launch into a short speech about how much they love Angels and everything about them and I suddenly think this could go off track quite rapidly if I don't reign in quickly. (We still have one new member, what must she think, must impress!) 'Well you're most welcome to stay and talk about books if you want but we are definitely not talking about Angel Cards' I cut in and off they popped
I had read A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory last month so to compare and contrast (and mostly because I enjoyed Angels so much) I read A Simple Act of Violence also by Ellory.
Angels is quite simply the best crime novel I've read in ages. The reason? Because it isn't a crime novel at all. In one way it's a classic who dunnit yet it has none of the classic cliches or stereotypical formula. It's a love story, It's about one mans resilience as we follow his life, it's about a little boy who wants to become a writer, grief, prejudice, anything but murder! There are whole chapters where the little girls being murdered are not mentioned at all. Yet it had you hooked - who had he shot? who was the killer that he had finally tracked down? The reader was informed from the very beginning by reoccurring italic segments that the present day Joseph was in a room with someone who he had shot. This managed to set the intrigue and suspense right from the word go.
I also loved the fact that it kept me guessing until the very end. I suspected everyone and anyone. Sometimes multiple persons on the same page! Ellory possessed the skill of leading you up one garden path and then another without frustrating the reader. It just made me want to read faster!
We actually spent a lot of time this month talking about the actual writing of the book. Now that's a first! We kept leafing through the book pointing out particular pages/paragraphs that we liked. Don't know if it's due to our new member, the book itself or our growing confidence in dissecting books. (Check this website for some good examples of Ellory's writing
We also talked about what drove Dearing to kill? It was never explained what drove him to it and perhaps we didn't need to know what drove a sheriff to kill little girls. Did his wife know and that was why she killed herself? Was the first girl we were told about his first victim? We certainly unearthed lots of unanswered questions.
We admired the true depth of Dearings evilness. He was cunning, framing Gunther, the only German in the vicinity at a time when feelings were strained due to the start of World War 2. Visiting Josephs mother when she was losing her mind to plant the idea of her starting the fire. And all done whilst wearing his Police uniform. The man they were depending upon to provide them with justice, the man they ran to to keep them safe. One of us also picked up on the fact that Dearing kept his uniform after he retired so he could continue luring the little girls. Urgh!
There are many many more points I could talk about here. How Joseph was a loner and didn't fit into the small town. His mother, her relationship with Gunther, her intelligence. Joseph going to prison for a crime he did not commit. His writing................. I will stop, you will just have to read the book yourself. But you get the picture it was good. We gave it an 8.5 (very nearly a nine.)
I did say I would compare and contrast and where Angels was a totally different type of crime novel A Simple Act of Violence was a totally unoriginal one. It was your A typical American cop story, broken cop with a recent bad experience out to prove himself, broken relationship etc etc. Could be any number of books you've read previously huh? It too had the italic segments but this branched into a seemingly entirely different story about the CIA and drug smuggling through South America. Yeah sure the two tied up but at times it appeared to be merely an opportunity to berate the American Government. When Ellory allowed the crime story to kick in it was interesting enough but it wasn't really ever allowed to be a crime novel. Neither was it in depth enough to be a whole Government expose thing and therfore alienating both markets.
I was so disappointed as it took the shine off Angels. When you read one book that is so good you are expecting great things and it kind of is tarnished when the second book does not match up. In short Angels soared (pardon the pun) but Violence sank. Read Angels, its great, but maybe if you decide to read A Simple Act of Violence read it first.

P.S Next book is A Christmas Carol by who else but Dickens.... Bar Humbug!!!