(BeWrite, $14.27, 192 pages, trade paperback; August 2002.)
Evil Angel is a story about three people who are
trying to cope with different personal tragedies.
The story opens on a couple who are at the end of a bad marriage --
Jack, a teacher, made the mistake of sleeping with, impregnating and
marrying a former student. Despite her protests he decides to take a
short vacation at a remote lodge near Aspen, Colorado. Soon after his
arrival he meets a young woman named Hillary. Hillary is recovering
from the recent death of her husband. She is a social worker and is
trying to put the pieces of her shattered life back together. She too
has travelled to the Silver Haven Lodge to do some skiing and try to
find peace. As fate would have it, Jack and Hillary find an element
of attraction in the other. She is a compassionate, caring woman. He
is a funny and tender older man.
Meanwhile Terri, at home with her baby daughter Lilly, is in denial
that her husband is going to leave them. Her paranoia builds as the
voices in her head convince her that everything is going to work out.
Jack is just deluding himself. They will soon be a happy family again.
Racing to the airport, Terri just misses Jack's flight to Aspen. She
loses control of her tormented emotions and is hospitalized. Her mother
arranges for her release, covering for her as she has apparently done
many times in the past. Terri's efforts grow more and more frantic.
She flies to Aspen to confront her husband and soon finds out about
the nascent bond he's developed with Hillary. Listening once more to
the "Evil Angel", she devises a plan to win back the man she loves.
She will do anything to be with Jack again. And, if a few people have
to die so that they can be a family, then so be it.
If this sounds to you like an episode of a very bad American talk show,
you're right. Except for the murders.
Evil Angel is a mercifully short book. The two main characters
are selfish, bitter people. The antagonist is a schizo-affective who
has her mother cover up any "unfortunate outbursts". It is very difficult
to form any kind of feeling about them except disgust.
There are a lot of technical problems with the author's writing style.
The story reads as if it were not edited except for spelling and grammar.
Many concepts and nuances to the characters and plot could have been
enhanced with an outside opinion. The descriptions of the locations
are accurate, but sound like a travelogue interspersed with the author's
memories. All of the characters have the same opinions and much the
same way of viewing the world around them.
The author also has a way of enervating her characters sexually and
emotionally. None of the characters has or has had a healthy relationship,
and it seems like they never will. Although there are some sexual moments,
they are all cut short. And, in much the same way, the characters never
get to fully express to each other their feelings. The author could
have made a strong play for showing how people deal with and recover
from grief and emotional trauma, but she never does. Had the characters
been allowed to grow and mature, this would have been a very different
book -- and probably a much more enjoyable book. Instead, the characters
flit from scene to scene, helpless to avoid the machinations of the
author and the antagonist. They never learn from their past, nor do
they learn from the events that occur during the timeframe of the novel.
Even the climax and denouement are cut short -- a page and a half to
The book is packaged like a horror novel and the teaser has been cropped
to show that it's a book with lots of sex and blood. It isn't. In reality,
it's a story about some very shallow people.
On the positive side, the characters are very real. Very human. There
are no larger-than-life-four-colour action heroes in this story. There
are no devils or demons, gods or angels. The antagonist believes in
angels, but it is clearly no angel that talks to her. Instead she is
haunted by nothing more than mental illness. Days after reading the
book, I still felt angry with the lot of them for bringing it all on
themselves. Considering how much I disliked reading this book, I can
still feel something about these characters, even if it is negative.
That indicates that the book was able to spark some kind of reaction.
In that, the book is a success.
Love them or hate them, the victims of the Evil Angel will stay in
your mind. They will alter your perceptions on what may very well be
the real world.
Review by Ron S Dyer.