Thursday, March 22, 2012

Requiem for an Angel

Requiem for an Angel: The Secret History of a Murderer by Andrew Taylor
The Roth Trilogy
HarperCollins, 2002
Paperback,  914 pages
The Roth Trilogy includes:The Four Last Things (Roth Trilogy #1, 1997)
The Judgment of Strangers (Roth Trilogy #2, 1998)
The Office of the Dead (Roth Trilogy #3, 1999)

Requiem for an Angel uncovers the secret history of a murderer, tracing the full damage and horror of an unforgiving killer over forty years. For the first time the three volumes of the Roth Trilogy can be read together as they were designed. A chilling account of one family's self-destruction, the story strips away the layers of the past like an archaeological dig into the very nature of evil.
My Thoughts:
Requiem for an Angel: The Secret History of a Murderer by Andrew Taylor is a collection of the three books that comprise the Roth Trilogy: The Four Last Things, The Judgment of Strangers, The Office of the Dead. The collection is also published under the title Fallen Angel. Although the three novels can be read separately, together they make for a very powerful novel. Each of the novels is written in a different style while it also alters the reader's perception of each story as the complete history of the serial killer is revealed. 
Taylor takes a unique reverse chronology approach with this crime fiction trilogy, starting with recent events in the 1990s and going back into the past, the 1970s and 1958. Since the reader is privy to much more information than the characters, the suspense and sense of foreboding build in the narrative until almost overwhelming. While you know who the psychopath is, you will also be asking where does the responsibility for the murderer lie - nature or nurture? And does the truth lie even further buried in the past?
"The Four Last Things features the Appleyards, present-day inner-city dwellers, potentially happy, despite the vicissitudes of their opposing careers as a woman cleric and a male police officer, until their beloved child is abducted. The reader knows by whom, and into what appalling danger: the victims do not, and God is silent on the subject. In The Judgment of Strangers, when a sternly handsome and passionate priest faces the torture of a sexless and sterile marriage against the cacophonous background of the licentious 1970s, God is equally reticent. Again, there is a child, omnipresent, but often silent. In The Office of the Dead, set in 1958, an element of godlessness prevails in the character of Wendy, the narrator, guest of the Reverend Byfield and his wife and an uncomfortable adornment to the Cathedral Close. She is the sinner, taking refuge from her adulterous husband and frivolous life, inseparable from her bottle of gin and as fine an example of the decent scarlet woman as literature can provide." Frances Fyfield, foreword, pg. x
"...[O]n one level, this trilogy is a history of social habits and attitudes from 1958 to the present day, giving Taylor the opportunity to evoke three successive eras with uncanny, atmospheric accuracy.... On another level, the narratives reflect the changing state of the Church of England and the altered status of its sometimes hapless clerics." Frances Fyfield, foreword, pg ix
I really think that reading the three novels together makes the story more complete, as well as more horrifying and shocking. As you go back in time you see the secrets kept in the past, the mistakes made, clues that, if they had been taken seriously, could have changed recent events. Not only is each novel set in a different time period, they are also narrated by a different person. While the connection between families is explored, there is also a connection to a mad poet-priest who died fifty years before the serial killer, Angel, was born.
Requiem for an Angel,  The Roth Trilogy, is Very Highly Recommended - one of the best
"On that note, it could be said of Taylor's characters, that by their decency, so shall you know them." Frances Fyfield, foreword, pg. x
The Four Last Things (Roth Trilogy #1)

Eddie took a long, deep breath. Suddenly it was hard to breathe. There always came a point when one crossed the boundary between the permissible and the forbidden. He knew that Angel would be furious. Angel believed in careful preparation, in following a plan; that way, she said, no one got hurt. She hated anything which smacked of improvisation. His heart almost failed him at the thought of her reaction
Yet how could he turn away from this chance? Lucy was offering herself to him, his Christmas present. Had anyone ever had such a lovely present? But what if someone saw them? He was afraid, and the fear was wrapped up with desire. pg. 8
Sally took a deep breath. As she exhaled, a picture filled her mind: an angel, stern and heavily feathered, the detail hard and glittering, the wings flexible and rippling. She pushed the picture away.
"God does not change," she said again, her voice grim. "But we do." pg. 13
Sally Appleyard could not say when she first suspected that she was being watched. The fear came first, crawling slowly into her life when she was not looking, masquerading as a sense of unease. pg. 27
The Judgment of Strangers (Roth Trilogy #2)

We found the mutilated corpse of Lord Peter in the early evening of Thursday the 13th August, 1970. He was the first victim of a train of events which began towards the end of the previous summer when I met Vanessa Forde - or even before that, with Audrey Oliphant and The History of Roth. pg. 285
If Audrey had not decided to write her history of Roth, none of what followed might have happened. It is tempting to blame her - to blame anyone but myself. But fate has a way of finding its agents: if Audrey had not volunteered to be the handmaid of Providence, then someone else would have come forward. pg. 287
As a consequence of my accepting their invitation, two people died, a third went to prison, and a fourth was admitted to a hospital for the insane. pg. 289
The Office of the Dead (Roth Trilogy #3)
"I'm nobody," Rosie said.
It was the first thing she said to me. pg. 587
"Wendy, you can't hide away from the past," he said. "You can't pretend it isn't there, that it doesn't matter."
"Why not?" I was a little drunk at the time and I spoke more loudly that I'd planned. "If you ask me, there's something pathetic about people who live in the past. It's over and done with."
"It's never that. Not until you are. It is you."
"Don't lecture me, David." I smiled sweetly at him and blew cigarette smoke into his face. "I'm not one of your bloody students."
But of course he was right. That was on thing that really irritated me about David, that so often he was right. He was such an arrogant bastard that you wanted him to be wrong. And in the end, when he was so terribly wrong, I couldn't even gloat. I just felt sorry for him. I suppose he wasn't very good at being right about himself. pg. 588
Looking after children was something you left to women. That was what they were for, along with the other marital duties which he probably assumed had been ordained by God and man since time immemorial. I wonder now if David was a little scared of young children. Some adults are. pg. 664

No comments: