Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: Destroying Angel

Book Review: 'Destroying Angel' by Richard Paul Russo

5 / 5 Stars

‘Destroying Angel’ (230 pp) was published by Ace Books in July, 1992, with cover artwork by Peter Gudynas.

This is the first volume of what is known as the ‘Carlucci’ trilogy, with the succeeding volumes ‘Carlucci’s Edge’ (1995) and ‘Carlucci’s Heart’ (1997).

'Angel' is set in an early 21st century San Francisco, a cityscape Russo used in his 1989 (unrelated) novel 'Subterranean Gallery'. This San Francisco  is modeled heavily on the cityscape imagery - including the incessant rain showers - depicted in the movie ‘Blade Runner’.

In ‘Angel’ Carlucci is a supporting character to the main protagonist, an ex-cop named Tanner.

As the novel opens, Tanner witnesses the sight of two corpses being pulled from a waste pond; the corpses have been chained together, a sign that the so-called ‘Chain Killer’ is back in business. More than two years previously, when Tanner had been on the SFPD, he had investigated a string of 37 murders by the ‘Chain Killer’ before circumstances had forced him off the case, and out of the force.

Tormented by post-traumatic stress disorder, Tanner consults with Carlucci, the Homicide detective assigned to the newest murders, about temporarily being assigned to the case as an independent operative. For Tanner wants to pursue the one lead he had years ago when he was assigned to the Chain Killer case, a lead that might lead them directly to the murderer.

But pursuing the lead will involve entering the seediest and most dangerous environs of San Francisco: the Tenderloin District, and beyond that, the lawless tenements of the Core. Tanner doesn’t relish being forced to interact with these dens of thieves and murderers, and as he is about to discover, there is a bounty on his own head…..and no shortage of homicidal deviants with an interest in collecting.........

‘Destroying Angel’ relies on just about every detective novel cliché and archetype you can imagine…..there is very little about this novel that is innovative, as it simply melds the private eye genre with sf, in much the same manner as the Blade Runner film did.

And it works: ‘Angel’ is very readable and engrossing, helped by a clipped, declarative prose style, short chapters, a fast-moving plot, and just the right stylistic overlay of world-weary cynicism and despair. 

This is a second-generation Cyberpunk novel that is well worth adding to anyone's collection.

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