Bestselling author Tawni O’Dell’s latest novel Angels Burning (Gallery Books) boasts a killer title and an irresistible cover. Throw in several ridiculously complimentary blurbs from fellow scribes pasted front and back, and readers will turn to page one with the highest of expectations. O’Dell does not disappoint, aptly navigating a murder mystery, a personal family drama, and a complicated romance, all seen through the eyes of her heroine Police Chief Dove Carnahan.
When a teenage girl is murdered, her body left smoldering in the sinkhole of an abandoned Pennsylvania mining town, Chief Carnahan’s small town police force joins her former mentor, State Police Detective Nolan Greely, in hunting the killer. As compelling as the mystery surrounding the girl’s death is, the richness and complexity of the story’s characters make the book impossible to put down.
O’Dell peels away layer after layer from her first-person narrator. At fifty, Chief Carnahan feels her youthful beauty fading, admits letting her emotions affect her decision-making on the job, and realizes her childhood will continue to haunt her for years to come. Despite all of this, Carnahan is captivating as the perfect hero.
To discover the identity of the killer, Chief Carnahan must investigate the victim’s relatives. Poor, dysfunctional, and ill mannered, the family of suspects ignites memories of Carnahan’s own troubled family: a murdered mother and a suicidal brother missing for decades. These threads from her past give readers a better understanding of Carnahan as a woman and a lawman, and the mysteries surrounding both sets of relatives drive the narrative forward as details surrounding each are slowly revealed.
O’Dell moves the story easily from squad room to slum, her descriptions always spot-on, giving her an authoritative voice. The finale is satisfying, and while the sharpest mystery readers might finger the culprit just before the final pages, this knowledge will not take away from the enjoyment of the beautifully crafted conclusion, one that leaves just enough dangling thread for a possible sequel.
Clay Snellgrove is the author of The Ball Player. He’s a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. A former professional baseball player, Clay holds an MFA in creative writing from Converse College.
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