Falling Angel

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook
Paperback $13
Hardback $19.57
Kindle $6.15
Associated ISBNs 9780312957957
9781933618081 — Paperback
9781453271131 — Paperback
9781933618098 — Hardcover
9781842431542 — Paperback
9781453246702 — Paperback
9780446314329 — Paperback
9781453246580
9781453281703
9781480480742 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

This book is pretty well written given the subject and era it was written in but its not perfect.

This won’t be jumping off the shelves. Its an older book, with a plot that won’t appeal to everyone and a subject that could hold it back.

Readers Annotation

Harry Angel is hired to find a man gone missing from a medical ward… 15 years ago.

Summary

Harry Angel is a P.I. in New York City. He has just been hired to find Johnny Favourite, a former big band singer and current coma patient, by Louis Cypher. Harry goes upstate to see if he can visit Johnny, but when he gets to the hospital they tell him that Johnny was transferred to a military hospital 15 years ago. Harry calls the VA hospital and they tell him that Johnny was never there.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, HIGHTLIGHT TEXT FOR FULL SUMMARY)

Harry breaks into Johnny’s doctor’s house and snoops around looking for clues. When the doctor gets home, Harry blackmails him with his morphine habit but the doctor won’t talk. Harry ties the doctor up to his bed and goes for a walk to give the doctor time to think about his information request. When he comes back he finds that the doctor has apparently committed suicide.

Harry returns to New York and gives an update to his client. He gets information from the newspaper about Johnny’s life before he disappeared. He finds out about Johnny’s ex-fiance and bandmates. He puts in calls to the bandmates and tracks one “Toots” Sweet to a club in Harlem and an M. Krusemark. He finds that M. Krusemark is the fiance’s (Margaret) sister and a fortune teller.

“Toots” Sweet and Harry talk about what Johnny was like back in the day (no friends, hanging out with mystical people, perhaps not a liker of black people). “Toots” tells Harry that Johnny had a black mamba (voodoo priestess) on the side and Harry ducks out to check out her place of business. Johnny’s woman is dead, but her daughter Epiphany now runs the store. She denies being involved in voodoo. Harry returns to the club and talks again with “Toots” until Harry touches on some things that “Toots” doesn’t want to talk about. “Toots” clams up and Harry decides to follow him home.

“Toots” doesn’t go straight home though, he stops in Central Park to participate in a voodoo ritual, led by Epiphany. After the ritual is completed “Toots” heads home. Harry follows him in and threatens him to get information and then heads home.

Harry returns to check in with “Toots” the next day, only to find him slaughtered on his bed with voodoo symbols written in his blood on the wall. Harry is harassed by the police, who think he’s murdered “Toots.” Harry tries to talk to Epiphany, but she isn’t in her store. He goes up to check out her apartment above the store. He hears her leaving and follows her straight to Margaret Krusemark. The women discuss Harry trying to find out about Johnny. They leave and head in separate directions. Harry follows Margaret.

Margaret goes to her father, the shipping tycoon. Harry poses as a window washer to and eavesdrops on their conversation. Margaret and her father talk about Harry and Johnny. After Margaret and her father leave, Harry comes in to the building, he finds an invitation for Mr Krusmark to attend a Black Mass (satanic mass) and leaves in a hurry. He has lunch and then decides to check in on Margaret.

Margaret has been murdered, her heart pulled from her chest and put on display. Harry tears a page from her calendar (which had his name on it), the astrology map she had made for him, and anything else he thinks will incriminate him and goes home.

Later Epiphany finds him. She’s afraid for her life. She tells him that Johnny Favourite was her father. Harry invites her to stay with him. They have a lot of (not explicit) sex. The next day the police come calling again. After they leave Harry and Epiphany go to a church where El Cifer (Louis Cypher in black face) is performing. When they return after a creepy fire-and-brimstone performance, they hole up in bed. The next day Harry tells Epiphany to stay home while he goes to see the Black Mass.

Harry takes cameras and his gun with him to the Mass, being held in the subway tunnels. The Mass includes creepy masks and cloaks, baby sacrifice, virgin defiling and an orgy. Harry takes pictures of it all, paying special attention to the tycoon Krusemark. After the ceremony, Harry confronts Krusemark for answers. Krusemark and his daughter had sprung Johnny and paid off the doctor at the clinic. Johnny had performed a ritual to fool the devil, with whom he had brokered a deal, into not collecting his due. He sacrificed a soldier and taken over his life. Krusemark and Harry get into a fight, and Krusemark gets electrocuted on the third rail.

Rattled by these relevations, Harry rushes back to Margaret’s apartment to find a vase that Krusemark had detailed in his story. He breaks open the vase to find Harry Angel’s dog tags. He knows who he is.

Louis Cypher aka Lucifer, talks to Johnny, telling him he can never escape and then leave. Harry/Johnny immediately thinks of Epiphany and runs home. The police are already there, Epiphany has been murdered and Johnny realizes he’ll never escape and will burn in hell.

Evaluation

I’m not sure I really enjoyed this book, which is sad to me. I literally may have fallen asleep at times, but I trucked through (b/c I was already halfway done and damnit I could finish this book, it wasn’t that long). I found it hard to avoid the spoilers (but did discover that it was turned into an awful looking ’80s movie) since this is an older book.

I really wanted to like this book. I just didn’t. I’m not sure if it was the pacing (slow), the characters (kind of boring), the plot (actually pretty inventive) or the fact that it was a Noir (never read one of those before).

Look… its got a really interesting plot with some really interesting ideas… but I just found it so boring (though those last 40 or so pages were pretty exciting). I don’t know.

New York was pretty vivid. Hjortsberg spent a lot of time laying out the details of New York (Ts, cabs, neighborhood, and so much more). New York was well drawn out, and so was the social climate of the book. Talk about dated language! But it was so fitting. It set the mood. It helped form the world. The world the book was set in was detailed.

However, the characters weren’t super compelling. I wasn’t particularly moved by Harry Angel, or his quest. Cipher became intriguing as the book went on (and as his identity was being revealed). Epiphany might have been the only compelling character, and even then she was thin but interesting. This book wasn’t big on character.

I don’t know, I was so disconnected and bored by a book that should have been exciting.

Genre

Mystery

Horror

Readalikes

Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Significance

A Noir style mystery with Voodoo elements and a horror twist.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Did you figure out who Louis Cypher really was?

What did you think about the ending?

Let’s talk about identity and how it ties in with the book.

Author’s website

William Hjortsberg

Awards

None

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like a great mix of Noir and Horror with some identity crisis thrown in.

Other Information

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