Today I am once again playing audiobook catch up and sharing my thoughts on Fallen Angel, the 2019 thriller from Chris Brookmyre. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
ONE FAMILY, TWO HOLIDAYS, ONE DEVASTATING SECRETAvailable from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books | Hive
To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.
Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…
And suspicion is a dangerous thing.
From Chris Brookmyre, winner of the Theakstons and McIllvanney awards for Black Widow, comes a standalone psychological thriller full of twists, lies and betrayal.
You can, with a fair amount of certainty, pick up a Chris Brookmyre book and know that you are going to be kept entertained. He is a master of drawing readers into the story, and Fallen Angel is no exception. Perhaps much like Black Widow, there is an air of unease about this book from the very start, a sense that not everything is as you think and you go into those first few chapters knowing that a raft of secrets are likely to be unveiled in what will prove to be quite uncomfortable circumstances.
This is a story about family, or should I say families, as it is not one, but two families whose worlds we inhabit throughout the course of the book. One family, the Temples, are taking one final family holiday, in honour of the father and husband who recently died. The second family, the Reid’s, are the Temple’s villa neighbours, set to take their young son and new nanny, Amanda, away for a lovely summer break. Only not everyone in the family makes it to Portugal, and, as readers find out in the very opening pages of the book, keeping secrets can be deadly.
The book is full of mystery and suspense, the storyline challenging in terms of subject matter but very carefully handled. The tale moves between the past and the present, one informing the other quite clearly and yet subtly, the impacts of what happened all those years ago when young Niamh died, not fully revealed until the crucial time. I won’t lie – I had guessed one of the connections between the characters, past and present, pretty early on – it probably wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most readers if they were being honest. But how it comes to pass, the implications of what is revealed, still had the ability to shock me, and the cold way in which secrets of the past are handled certainly create a sense of outrage on behalf of some of the characters.
Speaking of the characters – Chris Brookmyre has once more created a very diverse and believable cast of characters who i struggled to like in many cases and yet became one hundred percent invested in. I needed to know why there was such great tension within the Temple family, to understand the very twisted and somewhat dangerous dynamic between them all. I wanted to understand how something so obvious to me as a reader could be so simply missed, the reality of that almost as shocking as what happened. And I wanted to understand what had really happened to Niamh and why, the answer as I expected and yet still uncomfortable to hear.
The book really examines the idea of status – of fame – and how far people would go to protect their reputations. It also examines how easily a person can hide their true nature behind a facade when they need to, exploring how easy it is for one person to manipulate another, to use their power and that very same reputation, to get what they want. It is not always an easy read. Although the worst of what happens to the characters is kept off the page, the implications are still clear and it made my skin crawl, rightfully so. It is not all dark – there are moments that made me smile in spite of myself, but it is a thought and emotion provoking piece of writing that stayed with me even after I pressed stop on the audio for the last time.
I haven’t read the author’s early Jack Parlabane books, but if you are a fan of his most recent novels, especially the likes of Black Widow, I think you will definitely want to read this. A fascinating study of the toxic nature of family life that will make you think and challenge your perceptions from start to finish – it’s definitely recommended.
About the Author
Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Ugly One Morning, which established him as one of Britain’s leading crime novelists. His 2016 novel Black Widow won both the McIlvanney Prize and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Brookmyre’s novels novels have sold more than two million copies in the UK alone.