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Evil Angel

by RD Larson

(BeWrite, $14.27, 192 pages, trade paperback; August 2002.)

Evil Angel is a story about three people who cover scanare 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 cover both!

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.

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