Turning Angel

June 26, 2008

Title: Turning Angel
Author: Greg Iles
Reader: Dick Hill
Audiobook: 2004
Length: 16 hours

Ears: 4

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Greg Iles is another author that has been writing for a long time that I am now getting around to during my summer reading and listening “vacation.” I had a difficult time picking a category for this book, indeed it has elements of a standard mystery/crime book as well as a legal thriller, and a police procedural. I will leave it up to you as to which it is and it really doesn’t matter since it succeeds on all levels.

Lawyer Penn Gage makes a repeat appearance in Turning Angel a story of love, betrayal, drugs, crime, politics and race. Iles paints a vivid picture of life in Natchez, Mississippi, a town struggling to stay alive as the South changes. Gage, who had a heroic turn in The Quiet Game is faced with a quandary when a childhood friend, Drew Elliott, comes to him for help when a high school girl is brutally murdered. Once the girl’s body is discovered the political, racial and social conflicts that run deep in Natchez test Penn Gage’s standing in the tight-knit community as he stands by Elliott.

Iles has an eye for detail, bringing Natchez to life with vivid descriptions of the town, its inhabitants, and their daily interactions. The politics of crime from the rivalry between the Chief of Police and Sheriff to petty politics of the judicial system all come in for vigorous examination. Parents will feel a sense of familiarity about the complex social structure that teenagers build to survive the rigors of life in high school. Indeed you might be shocked as is Gage about just what really goes on when parents aren’t around. And that turns out to be very important.

The plot is fairly straight-forward leading through several twists and red herrings. Nothing wrong with that, the best authors have done it. However, I found a couple of situations rather far-fetched and the destination is a bit of a copout, picking the one person as the killer who perhaps is the least interesting.

Dick Hill is probably the most prolific audiobook reader around. His performance in Turning Angel shows why publishers and authors demand his service. He has just the right tone, pacing and ability through voice control to portray a wide range of characters giving each a distinct personality. This story requires him to provide voices to a teenage girl, grown men, a teenage boy from Serbia and a several African-American gang members. Hill never falters and never stoops to stereotypical portrayal.

The Turning Angel of the title refers to a statue in the town cemetery that seems to follow the viewer as they drive by. It’s another one of the author’s details that gives this story the depth that makes this an enjoyable 16 hours.

Reviewed on 6/26/08 by Robert W. Karp

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