Review: Death Angel, Linda Howard

Cover Comment: It’s perfect!

Setting: Present day USA, both New York City and more rural parts of the US.

Series?: No, I don’t think so.

Hero and Heroine: Drea, beautiful, but incredibly insecure blonde drug lord’s moll, and The Assassin, ______________  , ________________ , ______________ (can you describe him in a way that differentiates him from, say, Halloween’s Michael Myers? I can’t.)

Plot: Drug lord gives girlfriend to a hitman as a prize. Girlfriend’s bout of sex with said assassin provides catalyst for decision to leave drug lord, stealing his money in the process. Drug lord hires assassin to kill girlfriend. Strange doings ensue. (that’s as spoiler free as I can make it).

Word on the Web [Warning: most reviews of this book have spoilers. AztecLady did the best in avoiding them]:

Jennie at Dear Author has written what I consider to be the best take on this book, but be warned, it’s very spoilerish and highly critical.

Jane, Dear Author, B-

Azteclady, Karen Knows Best, 9

Lelsey, The Romance Reader, 4 hearts

Book Binge, 4.5 out of 5

Jan, Reading, Etc. B+

Romance Rookie, B

The Rewrite Cafe, very positive

Thrifty Reader, B-

AAR Thread here.

Amazon.com, 4 stars after 101 reviews (but very divided: 31 were 3 or fewer stars)

The Racy Romance Review:

This book is not for you if:

1. You like your hero and heroine to spend time together. These two spend most of the book apart.

2. You think deeply flawed people make lousy romantic leads, regardless of whether they are “redeemed”.

3. You don’t like supernatural/religious elements in your romantic suspense.

4. You like a lot of character building and dialogue in your romantic suspense.

I’ve looked at a lot of reviews of this one — it’s very polarizing — and while I agree with many of the criticisms, my major problem with this book is that, despite the sex, murder, drugs, crashes, heists, FBI, and everything else… I found it to be one very boring book. And let me tell you, it takes a LOT for me to get bored reading, being someone who reads nonfiction texts for a living that 95% of the population consider worse than having their teeth pulled.

I listened to Death Angel on audio, unabridged, which often forces me to be more attentive than I am with actual books, because I can’t “skim”: I am so technologically inept that I can’t flip ahead on my iPod without getting completely lost.

As I was listening to this, I was thinking of a scale for rating how compelling an audio book is. This is what I came up with:

Low interest level: Have to force myself to listen to it at all. Switch between music on my iPod and the audiobook. Guiltily peruse a magazine while listening.

Regular interest level: Listen while driving and working out

High interest level: Listening while driving and working out, plus one ear bud in while grocery shopping, walking around campus, and making dinner

Obsessive interest: Rearrange my daily life to sneak in listens. Invent “must do errands” (return library books and movies that are not due; run to store for suddenly necessary items like microwave popcorn; run to dry cleaners for one shirt, etc.), take the back roads… you know the drill.

My interest level was all over the place on this one. At two specific points (one, when it appeared the heroine might die, and the second when the hero and heroine have a long awaited confrontation near the end of the book), it was High Interest. For the rest, I was evenly divided between Regular and Low Interest.

There were detailed descriptions of everything the characters physically did, from IP addresses, to bank routing, to shifts at a truck stop diner, to hair cuts, to how hospitals staffs rotate. Instead of getting interesting information about motivations or history or reactions of the main characters, we get long passages detailing their decision process, and then another set of long passages about their carrying out the actions they have decided on. Drea, in particular, would mull and mull over what she should say — long passages of this — and then we get one line of dialogue.

Since the characters are not creative in their methods (she pulls on a hoodie and wets her hair!), and since nothing they are doing is that interesting in this detail (He looks at hospital room doors to find a name!), this was just not compelling.

It’s 2008. We’ve all seen the Bourne movies, or the Departed, or the Godfather movies, or Scarface, or you name it. I think the average reader understands what it would take for Drea to achieve certain ends. Neither her contemplating how to achieve them, nor detailed descriptions of her achieving them, nor especially … ugh .. other characters later reciting these events again (either in awe or dismay), is interesting.

I knew about the very early scene in which Drea’s boyfriend gives her to the Assassin, and I thought I would have problems with that, but I didn’t have the problems I expected.  My feeling was that Howard pulled her punches here. It would have been much better and more consistent with her character for this women who has subjugated her every need — including her need for love, friendship, creativity, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment, and self-respect — to her drive for material possessions — to look forward to sex with a hot guy other than the drug lord she doesn’t love who is lousy in bed. For her to feel violated made no sense to me, when she had never felt violated in the two years whoring herself to Salinas. Perhaps if the scene had been written differently, to make her view sex with the Assassin as a logical extension of her past two years with Salinas, forcing a self-recognition of what she has become… but no. Her pride was hurt. That was all.

I had read two of Howard’s books — Mr. Perfect and After the Night — which I liked.  And I loved the premise of this book. I think it was very original and I even liked the supernatural piece in the middle. I loved the film Leaving Las Vegas, and I love the idea of two very bad people redeeming each other — or trying to — through love. Unfortunately, for me, the execution did not live up to its promise.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 9:28 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good review, I had a hard time finishing the book, actually skimmed through some of the more boring parts.

  2. Oh, Jessica – thank you. You have perfectly encapsulated all the reasons why this book sucked so hard. There were plot elements I really disliked in this book (namely the religious/ supernatural element) but I might have overcome my dislike of that twist were the book not so boring! All that endless exposition, all the repetitive internal monologues… the endless details (you’re right, of really uninteresting and irrelevant physical acts), the lack of dialogue… dear me, how far Howard has fallen.

    Also, as I can’t put it better myself, word to this bit:

    For her to feel violated made no sense to me, when she had never felt violated in the two years whoring herself to Salinas.

    Yep. I never got that, and the whole set up was consequently wonky for me.

    Also, I stopped reading shortly after the re-birth. I just couldn’t carry on. As I said, if it had been better written, my annoyance with the story could have been overcome. As it was, I felt I was reading absolute dirge.

    I never DNF, so this is a big deal! Who ate Linda Howard? Even when she wrote really dodgy stuff, with absolutely horrible heroes and doormat heroines, she was readable.

  3. Meriam,

    I know what you mean about DNF. I am a compulsive book finisher, and this one tested my limits.

    It seemed to me like the author was going for a kind of edgy postmodern timeless/faceless feel, like the characters were more archetypes than real people, but it fell flat.

    Let’s hope for better luck next time!

  4. I haven’t read this book, but I wanted to say that your iPod scale is pretty accurate for me, as well. There are a handful of books that sent me running unnecessary errands so I could keep listening.

    If there are people out there who focus on reviewing audiobooks, I wonder if they use a scale something like this.

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