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R.J. Ellory – ‘A Quiet Belief In Angels’

20 June, 2008

A Quiet Belief in Angels starts much as any serial-killer novel: there is a killer on the loose in the small town of Augusta Falls and he’s murdering little girls. Joseph Vaughan, growing up in the town, wants to do something to stop the killings and bands together with a group of his friends to form the Guardians, with the intent of protecting the town’s children. Seems simple enough, right? Well, that’s how this book starts anyway.

Beyond the beginning though, this book is no ordinary crime or thriller story. The focus here is less on the killings themselves – the identity of the killer is revealed at the end but is almost irrelevant for much of the book – and more on Joseph as he grows up. Joseph is very much a scarred character, who has to live through terrible tragedy, which is only in part due to the murders. Each time though, he manages to love again, even after all he has been through, which makes Joseph a sympathetic character.

As you would expect from a character study, told in the first person, most of the book is slow in pace. There are digressions from the main story and long descriptions and conversations that don’t seem to go very far. Luckily though, even when the style of the novel is meandering, it is nearly always compelling. The descriptions of people, in particular, are unusual and fascinating. My main complaint was with the one or two overused metaphors/similes – I was sick of the phrase ‘heart like a clenched fist’, or indeed any reference to fists at all, by the end. Additionally, that end takes a long time coming. The last third of the book seems to drag a little, saved only by the wonderful writing; there are sections that could really have been cut without affecting the overall story.

Ultimately, this book is not what I expected. I picked it up thinking I was going to find a tightly paced thriller, but instead got a thoughtful character study. That’s certainly no bad thing and if you’re looking for something from the more ‘literary’ end of crime fiction, you can’t go far wrong with A Quiet Belief in Angels.

  1. 21 June, 2008 10:57 am

    I really enjoyed this book. My review is at

  2. 15 July, 2008 8:26 pm

    This is a quality read that haunts the reader and forces you to question your prejudices. You are shown just how easy it is to feel bad and think the worse of people.

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