Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the brand new novel from Janice Hallet, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels. I was so excited to receive an early proof of this one from publisher Viper, having thoroughly enjoyed the author’s previous novel, The Twyford Code. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Open the safe deposit box.
Inside you will find research material for a true crime book.
You must read the documents, then make a decision.
Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?
Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.
Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.
As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.
From the bestselling author of The Appeal and The Twyford Code comes a stunning new mystery for fans of Richard Osman and S.J. Bennett. The devil is in the detail…
When I was invited to join this blog tour, I was also invited to be as creative as I wanted in terms of my review. I wasn’t so sure I had that in me and, having now read The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels, I absolutely know I do not have the creativity. What you have to realise, if you have not picked up a Janice Hallett book before, is that the author has a very unique style, one that some might consider quirky perhaps, and one which I would suggest is perhaps best read in physical book format or even listened to as an audiobook. It’s that kind of style, one which is easy enough to follow physically, but which would also translate well to the spoken word. Because this is a book about a book – two books really – or more specifically, the research undertaken to help the two main characters, Amanda Bailey and Oliver Menzies, prepare to write their very different accounts of one of the most perplexing and shocking true crime cases of recent years – that of the Alperton Angels.
Told through a series of emails, transcribed interviews and telephone calls which took place between predominantly Amanda, her old nemesis, Oliver and various colleagues, friends and witnesses from the case as they strive to find out what really happened on that fateful night that saw four men caught up in a kind of murder suicide pact. There is one other thread they want to pull, Amanda especially, and that is to find the baby that was caught up at the heart of the case and who disappeared on the night the murders were uncovered.
This is a really creative and effective way of presenting this story back to readers and, due to the nature of how the narrative is laid out, is actually a very quick read. Despite its length, 430+ pages for the hardback, I actually read it really quickly, the email, WhatsApp messages and transcribed conversations lending themselves to a very pacy tour through this investigation. There are no long sections of exposition, more conversations back and forth which serve to build the mystery, lay the foundations for what is to come and to turn this apparently clear case entirely on its head. Some of the scenes are perfect red herrings, some highly pertinent but almost lost in the mix of all of the other communications that take place. There are some blink and you miss them clues, but as you move through the story, the more obvious and apparent they become and those ‘ahhhhhhhh’ moments start to come thick and fast.
Don’t think that this is simply a book about two people trying to find a new angle on an old tale. It is actually a very well crafted examination on the power of suggestion on weaker minds. Of how charismatic and manipulative individuals can influence those who are susceptible and willing to believe, with overwhelmingly tragic consequences. Taking a look at how one man, Gabriel Angelis, had proven so influential he created god-like status in the eyes of the young people who followed him and bought into his ‘cult’. It is also a birds eye view of a decent into madness of a very fractured mind, someone who buys into the whole concept of good v evil that was at the very heart of the case and the core of the cult.
I really liked the way in which the author has framed the novel. She invites us to read what follows, challenges us to think about what we would do if faced with the absolute truths the book reveals. If maybe, understanding and reporting the facts is actually more dangerous than accepting what has already been told. We’re invited to make a moral judgment and to cast our own votes on whether we would have made the same choices when presented with this full body of evidence. And despite the way in which the story is told, she has given us a real insight into the characters at the heart of the story. Through their actions, their voices, she has created a far clearer picture of them in my mind than any amount of extended narrative could achieve. It’s one of her real skills and proves that you really don’t need to know the colour of the curtains to still get a keen sense of time and place.
Packed with mystery, and enough uncertainty to have you doubting nearly everything you are reading, this is a book that entertained and enthralled and which I tore through in no time at all. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, will be published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.
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