Thursday, July 23, 2009

Desolate Angel - Chaz McGee

Desolate Angel
Chaz McGee
Berkley Prime Crime


In life, detective Kevin Fahey was not a success at much of anything. He and his partner managed to close a few cases, but that was mostly dumb luck. Looking back, Kevin finds it difficult to believe that a couple of alcoholics who worked cases in a slapdash-at-best way, ever solved anything. Since his death, he’s had six months to wander around and watch his friends, colleagues, and family move on without him. He realizes that his physical departure from the lives of his wife and sons cause hardly a ripple in their lives. He was unfaithful as a husband and absent as a father.

From the other side of death, Kevin sees things so clearly. Of that death, he remembers very little. He remembers entering a building on a case with his partner, then standing in the back of the room at his own funeral service. He’s not sure why he’s still here, and there’s no one to ask. No one can hear him; only those few people who are hovering at the edges of death can see him. He’s shocked when he sees another ghost approach him. In life, she was Alissa Hayes, a murder victim; one of the few cases Kevin and his partner successfully closed.

Alissa either can’t or won’t speak to Kevin, but she leads him to a murder scene. Another young woman lies dead, killed and cut in exactly the same way Alissa was. But Alissa’s killer is in jail. Now clear-eyed, Kevin knows just how likely it is that they sent the wrong man to jail. He vows to help the investigation. When he seems detective Maggie Gunn for the first time, he knows he’s found his way. She’s dedicated to the job – and to life – in a way that Kevin never was. If Kevin’s purpose now is to repair the damage he caused in life, Maggie will be his instrument.

This novel, the first in a new series, has a strong and original voice. The first scenes detail Kevin’s death from his point of view. It’s an ingenious way to put the reader in Kevin’s shoes, since the book is written in first person, from Kevin’s perspective. He feels like a real person. He was deeply flawed in life, but he sees where he went wrong and he can see where others are going wrong in the same way. Without the fog of alcohol and ruined expectations, he understands the value of life in a way he never could while living.

The mystery is an interesting one, and the reader gets to see many different aspects of it, since we follow Kevin (who tells the story in first person) from the murder site, to the lab, to the home of the victim’s mother. His observations about human nature allow the author to flesh out the living characters in interesting ways. Although Kevin can sometimes stray into that ‘preachy’ territory reserved for the newly reformed, he’s most often a clever and incisive guide through the story.

Rating: 7 ½
July 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22873-9


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