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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of September 7, 2009

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A short week. A short list. A short intro. 

A Quiet Belief in Angels
by R.J. Ellory

R.J. Ellory once said in an interview:

"A critic once reviewed one of my books, and her review concluded with the view that the books I have written were neither ‘crime’ nor ‘thrillers’ nor ‘adventure stories’, but were more like human dramas where the characters continually found themselves challenged by viewpoints and realities that were both emotionally difficult and mentally untenable. They find themselves in places where they never intended to go, and do not wish to remain. Their purpose becomes to recover their own lives and identities, but failing that they recover what they can but never view life from the same perspective."

Many of these astute observations apply to the human drama that drives the suspense of British author Ellory's American debut, A Quiet Belief in Angels, set in rural World War II-era Georgia where 12-year-old Joseph Vaughan is growing up with the misfortune and loss of his father, his mother’s madness, and the seeming pervasiveness of a serial killer who is beating, raping and mutilating little girls. At first the emergence of a long white feather gives Joseph a quiet belief in angels, but later he realizes that the feathers actually portend death, beginning with the brutal assault and murder of a young girl, the first in a series of violent acts that will beleaguer the area over the next decade. Joseph and his friends, determined to protect the town from further bloodshed, forms "The Guardians" as a special-force community watch. But the murderer eludes them and they guard helplessly as one child after another is victimized. Even when the killings stop, the specter of un-feathered fear follows Joseph as he moves on with his life. Furthermore — while the past won't stay buried — Joseph must confront all that has darkened what has come before…

While the considerable number of characters and subplots might tend to water down the harrowing and hushed sway of Ellory’s prose, and the author tries at times to juggle too many narrative elements, high praise isn’t too hard to find. Michael Connelly says “A Quiet Belief In Angels is a beautiful and haunting book. This is a tour de force from R J Ellory.” At the same time Jonathan Kellerman bears out “the human drama where the characters continually found themselves challenged” when he points out that the novel is “a rich, powerful, evocative novel of great psychological depth."

MORE FICTION

Dexter by Design
by Jeff Lindsay

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Series #2)
by Patrick Ness

The Last Song

by Nicholas Sparks

Level 26: Dark Origins
by Anthony E. Zuiker, Duane Swierczynski

NONFICTION

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin
by Kathy Griffin

The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships
by Hill Harper

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Memoir
by Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Taylor

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

Caligula: A Biography
by Aloys Winterling, Deborah Lucas Schneider (Translator)

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch