Release Date : April 25, 2005
“In the crowded killing fields of crime fiction, John Connolly is a unique voice.” — Michael Connelly
Indeed he is. As my first foray into John Connolly’s work, I am amazed by his ability to elevate crime fiction writing with beautifully crafted prose. He has a rare knack of weaving elegant, loftily worded paragraphs with contemporary, casually-toned ones. The result is a smooth read with seamless alterations in moods, without jarring stops and starts, mid-stride.
Black Angel is the fifth novel in a crime series. The central hero, Charlie Parker, embroils himself in an investigation over the disappearance of a close friend’s cousin, Alice. His search leads him to face a horrible truth—the existence of a demonic being known as the Dark Angel, whose lost whereabouts over the centuries have led The Believers, an army of evil men and fallen demons in human guise, to carve a bloody, gruesome trail of death in their search for him. The Believers is championed by the Dark Angel’s twin, accompanied by a malevolent soul-eater.
The novel is heavy on the paranormal and the gothic, its inspiration drawn largely from at least three major sources:
a) an Old Testament apocryphal book, The Book of Enoch;
b) the Sedlec ossuary in Czechoslovakia, which as a major setting, appropriately lends the macabre flavor to the story;
(If you’ve never heard of this place, take a peek : )
c) a controversial Mexican religion venerating the Santa Muerte.
John Connolly’s delightfully detailed historical accounts in this book have probably fired up some readers to learn more about them. I know they have compelled me to scurry through the internet for my own research. So midway through the book, I’ve been entertained with a mound of fascinating albeit morbid material on this novel’s inspirations.
The characters are also what make the book interesting. This particular novel, being the sequel to four others, does not elaborate on the backgrounds of its protagonists; but, you may glean some bits and pieces about them as the story progresses. Not knowing much about them, though, will not impede anyone’s enjoyment of this book. However, to know the characters intimately, a new reader to John Connolly would be better served if he were to start from the first in the series, Every Dead Thing.
A lot of credit should also go to the author’s ability to present violence so artistically. He has an intensely meticulous graphical style that makes his descriptions so vividly crystalline. Unfortunately, it is precisely this quality that may render the novel too verbose for some readers. People who prefer a straight-to-the-point manner may be annoyed at being drenched with all that verbiage.
True, the novel could have been a shorter read. But for readers like me who revel in Connolly’s beautiful phraseologies, there is no such wordiness. It is a rare treat to find a crime-thriller written with such eloquent and oftentimes almost poetic language; and, an even rarer pleasure to discover one that dared to successfully defy the accustomed patterns of its genre.
My Mark : Excellent