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A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory

March 13, 2008

The tension at times in this beautifully written book is almost too much to bear. I wanted to rush headlong through to its conclusion, but at the same time I wanted to slow down to savour every word.

I love it when an author takes a particularly popular genre and turns it into genuine literature through a style of his own. That’s exactly what top selling author Roger Ellory has managed to do.

I always feel that the enjoyment of a book is reflected in whether, once it is finished, you want to seek out anything else by the same author. The answer to that with Roger Ellory is an unqualified yes.

The author gets his power from originality through his very existence. He is an English writer producing novels about America. The fact that it works marvellously is a tribute to his writing skills and his skills as a storyteller.

On the surface this is a book about the serial killings of children over a number of years. To leave it there would be to cheapen the way in which Ellory skilfully introduces side issues. It is much more than a crime novel. It is a novel that at times can make you gasp at its literary beauty. It is a story about love, redemption, prejudice and above all small town America and the way the heart always returns to ones roots. It is a story about loss, sadness, longing, missed opportunities, hatred and just about every other human emotion you can think of.

And the fact that the author sums up the prejudices and atmosphere of small town America is almost breathtaking from a literary point of view. He does it so much better than the majority of American writers that it’s almost scary. A Quiet Belief in Angels has much in common with To Kill a Mockingbird as far as feel and development goes and the scenes in New York reminded me of William Styron’s epic Sophie’s Choice.

By the end of this book the unveiling of the murderer seems almost to be a side issue to all the other themes. In Joseph Vaughan the author has produced a wonderful central character – a man battling with demons, but a survivor. We connect with him on all levels. We celebrate his success, we share his joys and we suffer his sorrows and we go with him through his life journey..

Bearing in mind that there are relatively few central characters the list of possible killers is very small and it isn’t too difficult to work out who is responsible. But to moan about that would be to miss the point of the novel. When I reached the end I wanted to return to the passages between Joseph and the murderer to see if I could pick up any clues and they are certainly littered all over the place – more in the killer’s attitude than anything else. I found the murderer’s character odious from the start and this changed to hatred. Only top class characterisation can have this effect on a reader.

Above all the great thing about this book is its poetic feel, the changes in style, the changes in pace. They somehow sum up the way the world changes. Whoever said there are only two things certain in life – death and taxes – was wrong. There are three – death, taxes and change.

This is the ideal book for those summer days on holiday for those who want something a little more thought-provoking than the norm.

Author: R.J. Ellory

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