Angel of Vengeance tested me somewhat from the moment I started reading it. I was several chapters in and wondering whether I’d actually finish the novel. I’d already found the start of this story of LA-based PI and vampire Mick Angel heavily clichéd, and that’s with giving allowances for the hardboiled-fiction roots that author Trevor O. Munson is writing to.
Yet, despite this bumpy start and early warning alarms going off regarding the ‘been there, done that’ feel that is definitely present in this book, I persisted and kept on reading. I am somewhat glad that I did as there was some improvement over the course of this relatively short book. But was it enough for redemption?
I soon realised the author knew the style he was writing, and was not just poorly imitating a well-tested method. His protagonist too evolved, as all characters should, and with this depth shook off some of the apparatus which I felt I’d maybe unfairly burdened him with early on.
Yes, there’s the damsel in distress. In Angel’s case this is the gorgeous burlesque dancer Reesa Van Cleef, whose teenage sister Raya has gone missing. He’s hired to find the girl and gets to work immediately. There’re the normal motions that such a gumshoe goes through, chasing downs leads and information in informal ways, and yes, he’s a vampire. And alas, in this he is fairly clichéd in the manner of many supernatural/horror urban-fiction works out there, but does retains just enough character and individuality to be interesting.
Mick’s approach to a problem is one from the sledgehammer school. That is, drive hard and persistently to get answers to your questions. Obviously being a vampire has its uses, and in Mick’s case this can offer benefits from permitting smoking in non-designated areas to information retrieval carried out easier than by your average Joe Gumshoe. And there’s the vampire strength advantage and other assisted perks of the bloodsucker, especially the mind control skills when cornered by persistent cops.
Angel is gritty, and has a past that echoes some dubious deeds. He needs to splurge on blood, or ‘binge-fix’ as he refers to it at one point; it’s a point of comparison to an earlier heroin addiction acquired in his early life. And that’s just one bad habit lingering in the past haunting Angel.
The analogy with the vampire and junkie lifestyle won’t be lost on anyone reading this book, and it’s one of those things though that I found grates rather than entertains. More contemporary vampire lifestyles for the horror fiction reader. As opposed to mainlining blood, I think I’d prefer it if he just went back to a local abandoned church and tucked into a young, hot-blooded virgin before resting up in a crate of soil or some such. That’d be far more reassuring.
It’s not all bad, and as I journeyed on with Mick Angel I was kept relatively entertained, his back story from the 1940s is far more interesting that the rest of the book I found, but I must say I was annoyed still by the constant bombardment of clichés coming at me in the prose. One might say that they were as thick as molasses. Mick is enjoyable, to a degree, but the writing sometimes made him a little two dimensional for my liking, and not fully fleshed out (and that’s no reference to his rotting insides: an interesting take on the vampire for sure, and made me think of Anita Blake and her rotting vampires).
This isn’t the strongest of vampire books out there by a long shot, but then I’d happily contest its strengths lie more in its detective and noir fiction roots, but it’s also nowhere near the lower-levels of drudge which comprise a fair bulk of this market. The ending is satisfactory and ties suitably with the rest of the book.
Angel of Vengeance will no doubt have a strong following thanks to the TV show Moonlight that it inspired, and its hardy vampire-fiction roots, but I have to say that otherwise the subject matter in this one wasn’t strong enough to endear me to recommend it to anyone outside of the crowds that frequent the aforementioned scenes.