Last month I received a mysterious parcel at work, the intriguing must know right now what it’s all about kind. It was a proof copy of a new young adult book, without title or author. The accompanying letter invited me to have a gander at said book, and if I liked it keep on reading and see if I could guess the author. Well, I did like it, I did keep reading and I did guess but I had to have a jolly hard think about it. I’ll let you in on the secret later, for now stay in the dark with just the exciting and full-on story to sustain you.
It starts with the narrator addressing us the reader directly, promising us secrets and honesty. There’s been a double murder inside a locked house, with no signs of a break-in. The victims were Malcolm and Maud Angel, genius-smart over-achieving parents of genius-smart over-achieving Tandy, our truthful narrator, and her brothers. The Angel Family: successful, brilliant, rich, weird. And on the evidence at least one of the children was also murderous. Instead of falling to pieces with grief Tandy uses her years of emotion-neutralising therapy to assess the situation and figure out who killed mum and dad. The problem is she is actually Murder Suspect Number One with the cops. Good job the Angels like a challenge.
And so we are thrown into the really strange world of the utterly non-angelic Angels. Mother and father had worked together to create perfect specimens of children; super intelligent, athletic, strong, emotionless beings ready to rule the world. As Tandy digs deeper into the family business she uncovers some murky stuff suggesting the kids are more lab rats than cherished children. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so surprising if one of the little darlings had offed mom and pop. They all appear capable of it, except perhaps Harry. He’s the sensitive one, a failure in Angel terms, interested in art and expressing himself. Certainly big brother Matthew has enough rage and rebellion in him ready to explode, and little Hugo is a bundle of energy not entirely sure of his own strength. There’s also Uncle Peter, a creepy piece of work, not the kindly sort of uncle that doles out sweets and colouring books at all. As Tandy investigates suspicion falls upon them all. She’s not even sure she isn’t responsible herself, her history of inconvenient blackouts do not bode well for her.
This is one of those books that once you start you just have to keep going to find out whodunit. I was hooked right away, and was kept on tenterhooks right through. It’s great how you never know exactly how much to trust Tandy’s word; I love an unreliable narrator. I switched back and forth constantly guessing who the guilty one was, but I didn’t see the denouement coming. It’s a pretty sad and shocking tale of parental neglect and blind selfishness. Malcolm and Maud wrapped it all up in a veneer of science and psychology, maybe even convincing themselves they were doing it all for the best. If they weren’t dead jail would be the only place for them. A name was never any less apt; not Angels but Monsters.
Oh, and now for the big reveal! The book is called Confessions of A Murder Suspect by the king of fast-paced gripping crime himself: James Patterson.