Book: The Angel Maker
Author: Alex North
Publisher: Celadon Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Synopsis : “Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely. Until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever.
Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate the real threats from the imagined. But then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more.
Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Age is facing a particularly gruesome crime. A distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.”
Review : Why is it that the books that come with the coolest ARC packaging always turn out to be the biggest duds? The Angel Maker arrived with several envelopes, each with a sticker dictating after which chapter you should open each. Inside the envelopes were cute little references to the revelations in each corresponding chapter: a small card, a newspaper article, and a box of matches. I love getting ARC packages, they are always an extremely enjoyable aspect of receiving and reviewing books, but what I’ve come to notice is that if a book has a detailed and intricate package, it’s likely to be pretty rough reading.
The Angel Maker did not disappoint in terms of living up to the ARC package let-down. North, a former New York Times best seller, wrote a book with a unique story in a truly bizarre way. I found myself wondering several times if he had simply hit “replace all” for certain words, given the strange wording of so many of his sentences. There were many instances of sentences that seemed to go nowhere, that wove a strange web of words that didn’t go together, it felt almost as if it had been poorly translated into English. I found myself baffled more than not reading through this one – and I realize it’s an uncorrected proof so it’s probably pretty likely that by the time it’s available to buy these problems will have been corrected, but I think it speaks volumes when an ARC reads so poorly.
I will give North credit, though, the story he’s created is interesting and strange. It unravels at the speed you’d hope from a suspense/thriller novel. Told from the point of view of several people, it hops between the present and the past, unveiling more and more details as you read. Something North did that I didn’t enjoy, however, was relying on the unreliable female narrator trope – once again we see a female protagonist, Katie Shaw, who’s had two whole glasses of wine and suddenly no one around her can possibly believe a word she says, so what does she do? Investigates on her own, of course! What else could she possibly do? This is the trope. It’s old, it’s over done, it’s worn out, and it’s lazy. And I’m not exaggerating, she had two glasses of wine in one single scene and suddenly her husband no longer believes a word she’s saying. But let’s not even focus on the fact that her husband regularly leaves their five year old daughter alone to watch tv by herself while he makes music in the basement with the door closed, a fact that Katie finds bothersome and irritating while her husband, Sam, finds completely acceptable.
I find it hard to want to read a book that employs the aforementioned trope, particularly as a woman. Not only is it overdone, but it plays into a stereotype that honestly isn’t a good look coming from yet another male author. I was slow to read The Angel Maker for all of the above reasons, it took me longer than most of the ARCs I’ve read this year because, while the story was interesting, it was written so poorly and in such a lazy way that it was no longer even a compelling read. It’s unfortunate that an author can take a quality premise and mess it up so badly that it isn’t even worth turning pages to see the finale. I’ve said many times that a book doesn’t have to be well written to be compelling, and unfortunately The Angel Maker is neither well written nor compelling.
Advice: Unless Alex North is your favorite author, this is a pass for me. It contains depictions of attempted and successful murder, snuff films, houselessness, substance abuse, and gaslighting. If you enjoy a book with worn out tropes, you might actually like this one. If you don’t, this isn’t it.