After having enjoyed Chris Brookmyre’s historical crime novel The Way of All Flesh (written in collaboration with Marisa Haetzman) last year, I was interested in reading some more contemporary work. His latest book, Fallen Angel, which came out yesterday seemed a good place to start as it’s a stand-alone novel.
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.
I think this might be a good book for anyone who’s ever been slightly envious of the seemingly perfect family holidaying in the next villa or on the neighbouring sun loungers to them. It’s a salutary reminder how often things are never quite the way they appear, and that there are downsides to both fame and families.
Fallen Angel starts with a murder and a family coming together for a commemoration at their two villas in Portugal. In the third villa of the group, there is a young Canadian girl, Amanda, the baby she is looking after this summer, and his mother. While they wait for the child’s father to join them, Amanda’s interest is piqued when she finds out whose family is staying next door and what happened here sixteen years ago.
Quoting passages and using theories from the family patriarch’s book on conspiracy theories, and switching between the 2002 holiday, which is mired in tragedy, and this tense reunion in 2018, Chris Brookmyre explores the personalities, dynamics and dark secrets within the Temple family. He switches perspective between Amanda and the inhabitants of all three villas, suggesting where the tensions and cracks are behind the carefully-curated veneer, and that this is far from being one big happy family.
This combination of conspiracy theory suppositions and shifting perspectives also helps to put more people in the frame, raising questions about their behaviour, making the reader suspicious of everyone and diverting attention from where it should be focusing. With each twist and turn in the story, the tension builds inexorably, something which kept me sneaking an extra chapter at work and reading late in to the night, before reaching its climax.
Although I’d had my suspicions about where things were leading, I’m still not sure how I feel about how neatly it was all tied up. That’s not to say it detracts from the overall reading experience, though.
No amount of sun can bleach clean the darker shades of human behaviour and personality on display here in Fallen Angel but Chris Brookmyre ensures that he leaves us with the survivors and some hope for their futures. His novel is a slick and accomplished look at the dark side of personality, fame and family life: Fallen Angel is inextricably tense and murky even in the full glare of its Algarve sun. Highly recommended.
Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre is published by Little, Brown. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive where purchases help support your local independent bookshop. For more on the author and his books, check out his Author Website, Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.
Today’s Day 5 of the #FallenAngel blog tour. You can check out more of the blogs taking part via the links below or by searching the hashtag on Twitter.