Friday, January 1, 2016

Angels Burning

Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell
Gallery Books: 1/5/16
eBook review copy; 288 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781501132544

Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell is a very highly recommended fast-paced literary murder mystery in a contemporary setting.

In the opening of Angels Burning, Police Chief Dove Carnahan, and two of her young officers meet Detective Nolan Greely and his team from the state police Criminal Investigations Division at a horrific crime scene in an abandoned rural Pennsylvania mining town. Dove had called in the state detectives right away because she knows she will need help solving this crime. There they recover the body of a teenage girl who was beaten and her body was thrown into a burning sinkhole. Apparently this action wasn't disposing of the body sufficiently for the perpetrators, so an accelerant was used, leaving the top half of her body burned beyond recognition.

The teen is later identified as Camio Truly, a 17 year-old from a severely dysfunctional blue collar family. By all appearances, Camio is the one bright light in the hate-filled Truly family, which has more than its fair share of incarcerations, deaths, and illegitimate births. Camio actually wanted to go to college and make something of her life. The Truly family seems sullen and uncooperative. Camio's mother, Shawna, is apathetic. Her sister, Jessyca, a single mother, seems to care. When the matriarch of the clan, Miranda Truly, shows up, they all stop any pretense of cooperation. Miranda makes it clear that they don't trust Dove Carnahan. She also has no problem throwing the fact into Dove's face that Dove comes from a family background just as sketchy as their family.

It is known in the community by those old enough to remember that Dove's beautiful, promiscuous mother used men to survive. She cared more about herself than her three children, Dove, Neely, and Champ. Dove reflects that "From watching my friends at home with their moms, I learned the most important aspect of a mother’s love was not the intensity but it’s reliable consistency." This consistency was something none of her siblings ever had from their mother. She was murdered when Dove was fifteen. Dove and her younger sister Neely are still very close, but both have chosen solitary lives. Neely trusts dogs more than people. Their younger brother, Champ, took off when he was 18 and they have only heard from him a few times. Now, right during this current murder investigation, Lucky Dombosky, the man convicted of murdering her mother based on testimony from Dove and Neely, has been released after serving 35 years. He maintains that he was innocent and is accusing Dove and Neely of framing him.

This is an extremely well written and very satisfying mystery. The characters are remarkably well developed; the plot is complex and full of surprising insights and discoveries. Dove Carnahan is not perfect, but she came across as a real person. I loved it when she mentioned she got new shoes from Kohl's - with a 30% off. I could picture myself saying that exact thing (only maybe adding on sale with a 30% off and some Kohl's cash.) She recognized and knew the name of the bedding collection from Bed, Bath and Beyond, only because she has just went there. Sometimes it's the little details like this that pop-up in a character's conversations that make them feel like real people, someone you'd know.

I am hoping that Angels Burning is part of a series. It felt like it could be, or that at least there should be another book with Dove and Neely to continue on with some story lines that were left open. Make no mistake, the murder is solved in a very satisfying way with some twists and surprises. However, I would love to spend some more time with Dove and see what happens next in her life. (I read Angels Burning in December, but wanted to make sure it was on the list of books for 2016 when it is released because it will be a contender for a top book.)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Gallery books via Netgalley for review purposes.

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