BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

ANGEL BABY by Richard Lange

Richard Lange Angel Baby

Richard Lange is new to me, and Angel Baby is his second novel, though the first one of his books I’ve read. A lot of readers are making comparisons to Elmore Leonard, and I think I have to agree, but I could also throw in Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane. There is a small, defined group working that kind of novel these days, and they’re getting harder and darker than Dutch Elmore ever did. I miss the laconic tone that Elmore always brings to his books. Even when things are bad, Elmore seems to make you laugh about a situation.

For the most part, I enjoyed Angel Baby quite a lot. The action was up and down, and Lange plays with time a few times that get in the way of things. I like the layered build up for the most part, but I got to where when a character was introduced I knew I was going to get a few pages, or a lot, of backstory.

The book is about one woman’s escape from a hardcore Mexican drug dealer that didn’t get enough airtime in the story. It starts out great, then Luz gets lost sharing the stage with all the over moving parts Lange throws into the story.

I kept all the characters separated well enough because the author makes them stand out. The down and out American Malone just never quite rose to the occasion as I expected him to. Jeronimo, the Mexican ex-hitman recruited to hunt down Luz, got a lot of build-up, but even his story seemed truncated in the long run. Thacker, the bad border cop, kept slipping into and out of the story and doesn’t carry as much weight as he should.

As I read through the novel, I remained immersed, but there’s not anything really original here. It’s a good, solid read, but nothing stands out. A lot of the scenery has been chewed over before. The overlapping scenes got a little stale and confused toward the end because it got repetitive. As a noir novel, Angel Baby succeeds well, but the characters didn’t really mature by the end. They stayed pretty much who they were at the beginning. I wasn’t looking for life lessons here, but I wanted something that resonated more strongly.

The ending showdown with Jeronimo and El Principe seemed a little anti-climactic, and the epilogue with Luz and her daughter was just an irritating subterfuge that I knew couldn’t be true because there weren’t enough pages left (or characters) to be a true threat.

I’m going to read Lange’s other novel, but I’m going to let it sit for a while before I get to it.

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