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Book Review: Defending Angels by Mary Stanton

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Due to the bizarre incidents that occur on the very first pages of Defending Angels, a reader is surely suspicious that an odd, even paranormal, tale is forth coming. Young Bree Beaufort has moved to Savannah because her recently deceased uncle willed her his law practice. He died in an office fire.

While extensive repairs are being made, Bree sets up a temporary law office by renting the ground floor of an old home that sits in the center of a run down cemetery. Only murderers have been buried there. Her elderly eccentric landlord, who lives in ghostlike silence on the second floor, charges Bree very little rent. She immediately befriends the young lawyer and takes for granted she is part of Bree’s legal staff. As Bree walks out through the cemetery, she hears a horrible wail.

She caught a glimpse of a white face, the mouth split in a terrible grin … the scent of decaying corpses was stronger now.

Behind a tree, Bree finds a dog caught in the jaws of a trap. Carefully releasing him, she takes the animal for emergency medical attention. Then, unable to abandon the affectionate creature, she takes him to her townhouse, where he becomes her benevolent protector.

Bree’s first legal case provides the story with its somewhat over-imaginative plot. An extremely wealthy dead man phones Bree insisting she find his murderer. Authorities have ruled his demise as death due to drowning. Allegedly, the deceased fell from the prow of his boat after suffering a heart attack.

The departed man’s, unkempt, female associate awards Bree a $10,000 retainer to find the billionaire’s slayer. She claims the deceased man threatens to haunt her until his killer is brought to justice.

Bree hires two male office assistants, both of whom appear as oddball as her aged landlord. It is this weird, uncanny threesome that helps Bree determine exactly how her murdered client died and who killed him. Then too, she receives help from a muscular but unavailable local police officer, and a private investigator who always seems to arrive in time to save Bree from any frightening or dangerous threat.

In Defending Angels, Bree is obsessed with a reoccurring nightmare. Oddly enough, she is given a painting to hang above the fireplace in her cemetery office. Horrified, she recognizes the artwork as the embodiment of her hideous dream. A cormorant with wings spread is painted above a gristly scene of people drowning in the sea, arms outstretched despairingly reaching for help. Although no plausible reason is given, she is told by her younger office assistant she cannot destroy this painting.

Well, my dear, you can't, of course. It's one of the copies of the Rise of the Cormorant.

 

As Defending Angels progresses, the story becomes more comedic than scary. Bree worries, but just briefly, about her own mind breaking with reality. At one moment, she is deeply involved with her murder investigation, interacting with suspects regarding her dead client’s murder. Then suddenly, paranormal phenomena occur.

Then with a sudden, horrifying blow, she felt the pitch and sway of her nightmare ship beneath her feet. The percussion of deadly wings beat above her head. The screams of the dying …

 

Throughout the tale, Bree accepts all the bizarre things she encounters with poise and dignity — at least most of them. She interacts with her meddling family in a realistic way, especially with her younger sister whom she thoroughly loves and enjoys. It is these normal folk and her dog that seem to ground her in reality.

Near the end of the book, Bree finds herself not only exposing the real circumstances of her departed client’s death, but also defending him in the Court of Celestial Law. There, he is being tried for the crime of greed which played such a prominent role in his earthly death in the first place.

As a whole, Defending Angels is a fun, entertaining mystery with quirky characters who interact with realistic dialogue, often in very strange, unpredictable ways. I found the tale more humorous than frightening but I’d guess this is the author’s intention.

I would recommend this book to anyone hunting a light, often humorous tale where the paranormal is not only accepted, but also plays an important role in helping our young heroine establish her case of murder. The readers of this genre would find the book fascinating from its very first pages. What could be more interesting than a small group of Defending Angels working with a human being to help her win a day in court?

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