Review: “Angels Burning,” Tawni O’Dell

Pros: Excellent character study
Cons: Too many characters to keep track of
Rating: 4 out of 5

In Tawni O’Dell’s Angels Burning, a young woman named Camio is found dead; someone apparently tried to make her unrecognizable or destroy evidence by burning her. It’s up to small-town police chief Dove Carnahan and state trooper Nolan to find the killer. They’re going to have to do it while occasionally hooking up with each other, looking for Dove’s long-lost brother (her sister Neely is quite happy training dogs for a living), and trying to make something out of the mess that is the Truly family.

 

I love Dove Carnahan as a main character. She’s 50 and seems fairly well settled into her role. She’s quirky, but she works hard at solving Camio’s murder. She also is not an entirely likable character, while I found her likable enough to want to follow her through the book. In fact “not entirely likable” fits nearly everyone in the book. They’ve all got their good and bad sides. They all have their secrets to hide. They’ve nearly all done things they should be ashamed of. Speaking of which, Dove and Neely’s mother was murdered when they were teenagers, and a man called Lucky went to jail for it. He’s out now, however, and making it clear he’ll make Dove and Neely miserable until they tell everyone that he didn’t do it. That’s one mystery I really looked forward to hearing more about, and the book delivered.

This is one messed-up small town, and it’s fascinating to discover the ins-and-outs of family feuds, forbidden relationships, and bizarrely sprawling ‘redneck’ families. Dove also learns more about her own family as she makes inroads into the Truly family.

I love that Dove thinks little of breaking rules when it suits her, and I also like that this doesn’t turn her into some sort of maverick super-cop. It just means that sometimes she goes off the range a bit; sometimes she can get away with it, and sometimes she can’t. No one in this book is even close to being perfect.

I only had one problem with Angels Burning: there are so many people involved that I gave up on keeping them straight toward the end.

 

NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher.
Expected publication date: January 5, 2016

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