by Danita Minnis, paranormal (2012)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-59578-942-6
Meet our heroine Angelina Natale. She plays the violin so exquisitely that she is now ready to conquer the world with her Stradivarius. That violin was a gift from her darling Maestro Giovanni Buono, which is about to land her in trouble soon enough. You see, top secret agent Falcon suspects her of having stolen the violin, and he wants to get it back. Or get her on her back. You know, the usual drama. Meanwhile, a bunch of villains called the il Dragone is after her, the violin, Falcon, or maybe all three. The reason for the dogged pursuit by this bunch of goons goes back to the 18th century, and yes, Falcon and Angel are linked together by fate, destiny, or whatever.
As you can tell from my horrible synopsis above. Falcon's Angel is a story that is not easy to sum up in a paragraph or two without giving away some major spoilers. It's an interesting story, attempting to blend romantic suspense elements with paranormal elements, but the execution, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. There are many moments when the story is plotted in a manner that, shall we say, lacks sophistication.
In the opening chapter, for example, Angel plays the violin until the lights of the building are dimmed. Only then does she realize that she has been so lost in her music that she has not noticed that the Royal Academy of Music is closing. She then starts stumbling around in the dim corridors until she hyperventilates due to the contrived combo of mysteriously locked doors and spooky atmosphere. The whole set-up is reminiscent of really obvious and corny B-grade horror movies, and it doesn't really serve any purpose other than to drive home the fact that Angel is an idiot who insists on doing stupid things when she is prone to having nervous breakdowns every time she gets into a stupid situation.
And in the next chapter, our supposedly capable agent Falcon is cursing the fact that people in China speaks Chinese instead of English. If Falcon is a disgruntled tourist, that is fine, but this guy is an agent. What, he can't even pick up a few rudimentary Chinese phrases on the course of duty? The author also gleefully shows evil Chinese people spatting Chinese curses at our hero, just like how in those B-grade movies of the 1980s, we have ugly terrorists growling in Russian because the use of a foreign tongue on our glorious English-speaking hero only underlines how evil these villains are. Or, when the hero outwits them, these lemmings cursing futilely in their foreign tongue serves to emphasize the triumph of the English-speaking heroes over the foreign villains.
These are just two examples of some tired clichés that feel really dated when used today in any body of work.
It also doesn't help that much of the narrative here feels like padding. Chapter Four, for example, kicks off with a long and absolutely banal conversation that adds little to the plot.
"How are you feeling, ma petite?"
“Mum! I'm fine," Angelina said. "It is so beautiful here, but I miss you so much. Are you already on your way?"
"We are at the airport. Will you meet us in Egypt? It will only be a few days away from the music." Her mother's tone was light, but Angelina could tell she wanted her daughter home.
"I can't. But you and Dad have a good time. It will be like a second honeymoon." She applied lip-gloss, smiling at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her parents were so cute. They still acted like a couple of kids when they thought no one was looking.
"Miles will be back from Paris next week. Why don't you give him a call?" her father said on the other line.
Of course, I'll report in. "I will Dad. Muddy must be bummed I'm not there for him to tease." Her oldest brother Miles had taught her many things when they were children, including how to make the squishiest mud pies on the River Wharfe, thus his nickname, Muddy.
"Shame on you, and he's not here to defend himself." Her father chuckled. “So, what are you doing with yourself over there?"
"Nothing, really. Just some sightseeing." She did not want to tell them about Tony and have her father put out an all-points bulletin on him. In the last couple of weeks, she had learned so much from her tour guide. "I toured the ruins of Pompeii, and have seen the most beautiful medieval churches. I'll send you the pictures so you can sketch them, Mum."
"Merci, ma chérie."
She slipped on a pair of loafers. "Today I am going to a football game."
"With whom?" her father asked.
"Some friends from the Conservatory."
"I didn't know you liked football."
"Oh, but this is the Italian Super Cup, Dad..."
"I know that, but I didn’t know you knew that," her father said.
"... and Naples is crazy about their team. There are billboards everywhere with the team members' faces plastered all over them. They are treated like celebrities here!"
"Well, it sounds like you're enjoying yourself over there." Her mother laughed.
Her father wasn't laughing.
"Yes, well, I won't keep you," she toned it down.
"One more thing," her father said.
"Yes, Dad?" Damn Tony and his Super Cup-loving heart! The cat is out of the bag now. I shouldn't have gone on like that...
"Did Pietro show you the new piece from your collection?" her father wanted to know.
"The first to be manufactured for the public?"
"Yes, I couldn't get through to your email, so I sent it to him."
"Oh Dad, I can't wait to see it. I'll ask Zio to send it to me. I love you."
"Love you too, sweetheart, call us if you need anything."
Now, I believe that the author's intention while writing the above is to show me how overprotective Angel's parents are. Given how weepy and useless Angel is, I can only wonder whether she's like that because they are overzealous in their protectiveness, or they are like that because they know she is useless. Anyway, this exchange feels like a transparent attempt at information dumping, and pretty much all of the "information" here has little to no bearing to the plot! The brother's nickname, the parents going to Egypt, the lip-gloss, the ruins of Pompeii... everything boils down to "So what?" It doesn't matter if I don't know these things, so why is the author throwing these details at me? Of course, this won't be so bad if the conversation doesn't feel so stilted and awkward. It's hard to overlook padded narrative when the style of the narrative is so ersatz.
The author's awkward narrative style feels more at home in the second act of the story, when the focus shifts to the 18th century. This is mostly because the author's efforts at going guns blazing into intrigue and suspense during the contemporary acts of the story are just not good, but her depiction of the historical setting feels more believable and natural despite the amped up paranormal elements. Some authors may be good writers but they fumble badly when it comes to suspense and everything noir and crime, and Falcon's Angel has me wondering whether Danita Minnis is one such author. The historical parts of the story actually feel as if they were written by a different person, because these parts flow more naturally. The conversations feel more spontaneous and less as if they were written by Cassie Edwards, the plot has less "Really? This still happens today?" moments, and the pacing during those sections is tighter and more engaging.
Oh well. Something tells me that Falcon's Angel would have been far more enjoyable if it had been solely about the 18th century shenanigans. Even then, the jury is still out on the author's ability to craft believable conversations and various other things that are sorely lacking in this book. Maybe the next book will prove me right. Or wrong. Let's just see what happens.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: