Monday, September 1, 2008

Death Angel by Linda Howard *****

I have this book on audio from - it's not my first Linda Howard on audio, but my first with Joyce Bean as narrator. I have to say right upfront that for the first several minutes I thought I would have to stop and read it instead. I found her narration stilted and unnatural - she over-enunciated so many words that I wasn't sure I could stand to listen to it for 10 hours.

However, Linda Howard is such an incredible story-teller that before long I was drawn into the story, and the nuances of Ms. Bean's awkward narration disappeared into the background. (shockingly, 3 of the 4 current reviews on noted how great this narrator was... ???) Well, Joyce Bean wasn't dreadful, like the narrator for the first of the Feehan Dark series, but she's no Anna Fields. Personally, if I was allowed to give professional criticism, I'd say lighten up on those T's and D's, and try to make the flow of the narration less stilted and more like natural speech. But who am I? Just another listener.

The story centers around the major theme of the redeeming power of love. The h/h are both anti-heroes - Drea is the mistress of a drug lord, Rafael, thinking she is using men to get what she needs by playing the bimbo; "the Assassin" is just that - a killer-for-hire. The Assassin demands that Rafael give him Drea in lieu of payment - just for one afternoon. Rafael agrees, and leaves Drea heartbroken and sick, feeling worthless and crushed that she meant so little to him. The Assassin manages to make her even more confused, however, in a 4-hour stint that completely breaks her down because she loses control and actually enjoys - no - craves him. Although by the end she is begging him to take her with him, he tells her "once was enough" - and leaves a completely shattered woman, desperate to change her life.

Drea isn't the bimbo everyone believes her to be, however, and she's always had a plan for taking care of herself as soon as she had gotten what she needed from Rafael. She leaves him the next day, and in the execution of her plan, also manages to steal a large amount of his money - a sort of "up yours" gesture. When he figures out he's been had, he hires the assassin to do his job: kill her.

At this point we learn the assassin's name: Simon. He doesn't accept the job right away - first he sees if he can track her down. He admires her courage and her ability to stay one step ahead of him. He was not sure whether he would have taken the job - or her life - if fate hadn't stepped in and taken it from her in an accident. Once he's convinced she's dead, he takes her ID and calls 911. Although he proves to Rafael she is dead, he hadn't accepted the job and so doesn't accept payment either.

But he can't seem to shake her from his life and decides to locate her grave. He needs closure. Instead, he's shocked to learn that Drea actually survived the accident.

Now going by her nickname Andie, she realizes that she was never the one in power or in control of her life as she had thought, but that she had allowed men to use her. Her near-death experience forces her to face the truth of her way of life. Now she needs to reclaim her life and seek redemption for her past. Although she still has the original $2 million she stole from Rafael, she decides to fly under the radar, with a job that pays cash, living on what she makes, and use the money some way that will bring her redemption.

Then Simon is revealed to her by a flash of lightning during a storm - he's been watching her. As the reader, we know he's been her guardian angel, but to Andie he's still the relentless assassin who has found her and plans to finish the job he started. Although he had never planned to reveal himself, once again divine intervention plays a role, and now the two of them must face both their fears. And Andie must find her redemption and reason for her second chance.

Well - I loved the suspense, the skillful story-telling, the powerful transformation Andie undergoes from feeling worthless to finding her power within, and especially Simon's own redemption, because he had so much further to go than she did. Rafael's ending almost caught me unaware - it seemed to come out of nowhere but then made perfect sense after it happened.

I would rate the narration 3 stars for mediocre. I can't blame Linda Howard for that, though, so Death Angel gets 5 stars from me.


Cindy W said...

I LOVED Death Angel.

Heather's Fave Books said...

So I have read two of Linda Howard's books and liked them based on your reviews so I will give this one a try also.