A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory
Joseph Vaughan's life has been dogged by tragedy. Growing up in the 1950s, he was at the centre of series of killings of young girls in his small rural community. The girls were taken, assaulted and left horribly mutilated. Barely a teenager himself, Joseph becomes determined to try to protect his community and classmates from the predations of the killer. Despite banding together with his friends as ' The Guardians', he was powerless to prevent more murders - and no one was ever caught. Only after a full ten years did the nightmare end when the one of his neighbours is found hanging from a rope, with articles from the dead girls around him. Thankfully, the killings finally ceased. But the past won't stay buried - for it seems that the real murderer still lives and is killing again. And the secret of his identity lies in Joseph's own history.
You'd be forgiven if, after reading the back of this novel, you thought of it as a standard crime thriller; little girls get killed and the mystery is eked out over a number of pages until we get to the end - we've all read those. This isn't a standard crime thriller, and it's all thanks to the style. Ellory creates a little life of this novel, moving the plot along slowly, and holding us only with his descriptive prose and intricacies. His words were beautiful.
The plot focuses solely on the protagonist, and at no point are we treated to the thoughts or feelings of any other character. This grated on me initially, but the story eventually casts light on why this might be, and the revelation was somewhat glorious. Presented in what can only be described in a rough and raw fashion, it was a story of a man who was followed by Death throughout the entirety of his years.
Despite enjoying the lyrical prose and languishing pace, there were a few notable aspects here which didn't quite meet the bar for me. There are a huge number of plot holes; inexplicable actions made, mainly by Joseph, which just didn't gel with his personality, or what he was out to achieve. Ellory repeated many of his similes, and had various characters use the same turns of phrases which had originally seemed unique to the identity of the character who had used them in the first instance. Some of the situations Joseph found himself in were trite, and I have absolutely no idea how someone could suffer such bad luck as this guy did. Lastly, the finale was abrupt, rushed, and didn't answer any of the questions we had to committed to slog towards.
Although the above paragraph is slightly longer than I had intended, I don't want to portray any hate for this novel. The blurb on the back lets it down immeasurably; read this for the gorgeous style and prose, not for a quick murder mystery fix, and you're onto a winner.