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Broken Angels is the third novel from Richard Montanari and, after Play Dead (reviewed recently) was something I almost didn't pick up. As it was, I already had this on my TBR so thought I may as well give it a go. The end result...well, while this was better than Play Dead, its ending was truly disappointing and far too overly complex and convoluted!
The book begins when Detective Kevin Bryne is involved in an incident in a diner where an innocent women is killed in front of her husband. This man holds Byrne responsible and so begins a vendetta to bear against the person he thinks murdered his wife. Meanwhile Byrne and Balzano are called out to a Homicide on the banks of a nearby river. At first they think it is just another murder in a city where people are killed every hour.....but then they discover the feet have been amputated and a moon painted on her abdomen in blood and semen and they realise the truth ~ they have another possivble serial murderer on their hands and time is running out before he kills again!
Add to all this a retiring Detective, still obsessed with an old case after all these years and you have the ingredients for what could be a half-decent thriller and that is exactly what you get with Broken Angels. Unfortunately by the time you get to the end, things have started to unravel and frankly the ending is something of a mess!
I really wanted to like this, and indeed for most of the novel, actually was getting a lot out of it but, for me, the books climax ruined it all. This time around, the plot flows a lot quicker and much smoother than in Play Dead but that dioesn't help by the time you reach the end which I personally think Montanari made more complicated than it had to be! Byrne and Balzano work well together as characters but, without decent material to work with, simply end up becoming cliches! This third outing had a lot of the influence of books like the 87th Precint series by Ed McBain that the first two novels had but none of the stamina or endurance. By about the two-thirds mark, the whole thing just begins to run out of steam.....
Unfortunately, this is not one I would ever consider reading again......I do not even think I can recommend it!
Seeing as I get most of my books from the Oxfam bookshop, I tend to read quite a lot of books from authors who I hadn't previously heard about. I picked this book because the blurb sounded good and there were some good comments inside.
Richard Montanari is from Ohio in the USA who initially tried to make it as a musician however this dream failed and he took up writing instead. As well as individual novels, he has two series of books- the Jack Paris series and the Byrne and Balzano series, of which this is one of. Other novels in this series are The Rosary Girls (2005), The Skin Gods (2006) and Play Dead (2008). Broken Angels was published in 2007 and is the third novel in the series.
Kevin Byrne- Kevin is one of the 2 main detectives in the book and I found him instantly likeable, something that I find quite rare for a male cop lead in a crime novel. In this novel he is experiencing a slight crisis of confidence and is following the rule book pretty closely but doubting his decisions somewehat. Whereas usually the protagonist in these type of novels are quite maverick it is quite a refreshing change to see a different side to a detective.
Jessica Balzano- Jessica is Kevin's partner on the force who is happily married with a young daughter. Again compared to the typical female lead in a crime novel, Jessica shows her sensitive and emotional side more often and comes accross as much more human, having bad days as well as good, crime solving ones.
Moon- Moon is revealed early on in the novel as the serial killer, however his other identity is not discovered until the end. Moon is obviously mentally unstable and yearns for the days of his childhood when he lived with his grandparents. He is called Moon as he believes the moon pays him visits and talks to him about its travels, then gets him to do the bidding.
Father Roland- A city pastor who is getting justice in his own manner by killing paedophiles. We find this out early on but how it ties into the main plot is not discovered until later on in the novel.
A girl is found murdered in Philadelphia, minus her feet which have been sawn off. When her feet are found later elsewhere Byrne and Balzano assume it is a random urban murder. However the killer keeps on striking, leaving each victim with a set of strange clues. This eventually leads the two detectives to looking at fairytales, although this is revealed to the reader early on in the novel, as passages are written from Moon- the killer's- perspective.
There are also several sub plots which feed in to the main tale, although the reader doesn't really understand why until the end of the novel. This includes Father Roland undertaking mercy killings for the victims of previous crimes and a crazed spouse of a shooting victim, taking his wife's death out on Kevin Byrne.
I thought this book was very well written. I enjoyed the passages that are written from Moon's perspective- although you never find out his alter ego through these, you gain insight into why he is doing these things and what is going through his mind as justification. The plot moves along nicely and doesn't drag between victims. It does get slightly confusing with the sub plots as you don't understand why they are happening and why they are relevent to the story, until the last few chapters.
As I stated previously, I liked the characters in this book and think they are well developed. You get to see them in their home environments as well as at work and so you get to know the differences between the person and the profession, particularly with Jessica and her family. I found it easier to identify with them as people too, as their weaknesses are made known, unlike the 'supercops' in other crime novels.
Although this is the third novel in the series, I had no trouble getting used the characters and their situation. Montanari makes it easy for you to read this as a one off novel without having read the first two books.
The theme of the book is also slightly different, as there is a twist on the typical serial killer angle. It is a book full of imagination and has made me intruged to read the other books in the series. I would definitely give this book a read if you like crime fiction but want to read something with a different angle.
Available new from Amazon Marketplace for £1.96 plus postage.
Broken Angels by Richard Montanari is in essence a serial killer thriller.
Perched on a stone pier, as if she were sat at watching the river ebb and flow. She was wearing nothing but a long pink dress from a different age entirely. The victim had clearly been posed and much to the shocking, grim discovery of Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne, the murder detectives on the case, she had had both of her feet amputated.
Balzano and Byrne start investigating the murder, identify the victim, interviewing her friends. They are treating this a a single murder until another body rocks up, this too, close to the riverbank and posed and dressed in a bizarre outfit. The body count rises but will Balzano and Byrne discover the killers grotesque plan and put a stop to the killings? Well, you will have to read it to find out.
I very much enjoyed this book from start to finish. It is my kind of read, although I enjoy reading pretty much anything, crime and murder and thrillers are right up my street. Montanari managed to leave me in suspense at every page. I read the book over two days not wanting to put it down. I was hooked. Be prepared to abandon reality!
I would recommend this book, though it is a little gruesome and if you can not handle graphic descriptions of mutilations' then it is not for you.
Montanari has\also written The Violet Hour, Kiss of Devil, Deviant Way , The Rosary Girls and The Skin Gods. If you like this book, be sure to check his others out.
**Asda currently have Broken Angels, The Roasry Girls and The Skin Gods in a box set for £5**
Author: Richard Montanari
Published by Arrow Books in 2008
Review also on ciao - theshinyone - July 2009