Title: Black Angel
Author: Graham Masterton
Published by: Head of Zeus
Publication date: Dec 5th 1991
Source: Private Collection
In a city wreathed in fog,
a satanic killer stalks the streets…
Enter Lieutenant Foggia who, assisted by a spiritualist medium, must discover the reason for the slayings. But the truth he unearths is beyond anything he’s encountered in the real world. For the killings are paving the way for a force so powerful that the lives of a few innocents will appear unimportant in comparison…
Packed with twists, and laced with spiritualism, witchcraft and demonology, Black Angel moves at a break-neck pace from its stomach-churning opening to the explosive final confrontation between man and demon.
I picked up this book to be a quick read whilst waiting for the store I work at to open one morning. I usually enjoy Masterton and the themes promised in this seemed to be something I’d enjoy. Sadly, I DNFed at 62% and getting that far felt like an effort.
This review contains spoilers.
Lieutenant Foggia is given the high-profile case of the Fog Satan Killer after the previous detective has had no luck in solving the extreme murders. His investigations take him down the track of the supernatural, experiencing seances, demonic possession and withered husks of barely living souls.
Black Angel, like many of Graham Masterton’s novels, starts off as a belter of a story. If you can stomach the absolute violence that kicks off the story then you’re on a winning street. It sets the scene for a tale of abject horror – I’ve always said his depraved imagination is Masterton’s strong point and how he conveys this to the scenes in his books is nothing short of Masterful. I initially struggled to cope with the horror that the murder victims we’re subjected to in the opening chapter; I fear I am getting soft in my old age and scenes of violence involving children instills a feeling of dread ever since having my own kiddo. The torture of the characters felt so dreadfully real, that I almost put the book down much earlier than my DNF mark and I felt relieved to get through it and into the meat of the novel. Even though it’s horrible in content, this opening chapter was well-written and gripping. I honestly wanted to know what happened.
Then I started reading the rest of the book and the more it progressed, the less interested I became. It had all the hooks in place to be an entertaining read, but there was something undeniably flat about it all. The scenes and threads of clues that Lieutenant Foggia uncovered throughout became increasingly dull. Like the life and soul was sucked out of the story part way through. It’s not like nothing interesting happened, it did, it just wasn’t all that engaging.
Lieutenant Foggia as a lead character felt like a carbon copy of a million other Lieutenants in the police force. To me, he didn’t stand out as an interesting person to read about. His discoveries in the arcane didn’t have an impact on him. Not even when his Mother was shrivelled, possessed and hit by a 18-wheeler. I needed a bit more passion for… something from him. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural, so there’s a bit of a clash of interests in his thoughts and the events transpiring around him.
I felt like the tone of the story was set so viciously violent, that the rest of the story would follow suit, but it didn’t. Probably a good thing because then it would feel like violence for violence’s sake and that wouldn’t have sat right either.
I suppose I feel like because of his lack of character depth, I didn’t take to the rest of the novel. I gave up on the story at the point where a parrot, holding the impression of his face, flees the house and escapes. And, I guess my suspension of disbelief couldn’t keep up. I’m usually open to the supernatural elements in mastertons books; they’re there in most of them, but the blend of human-violence didn’t marry up with the ghost-story that makes up the main body. I felt like it was all a little bit to contrived and forced together that I had no interest in seeing the book to its resolution.
The strength of that first chapter is also the downfall of the novel. It’s so strong. So realistically violent that the rest of the novel feels like a gross parody compared. And, it makes the rest of it feel so tirelessly dull. I was dreading remeeting the Fog City Satan for the horrorific crimes he commits so early on, but then, nothing. Maybe, I should have pushed on, but I couldn’t. If you dread picking up a book to read, then it’s really not the book for you and its best to move on. Exactly what I did here. I’ve held of on writing this review and as such I have little recollection of the characters other than wooden Foggia, the names of supporting characters completely eludes me, such was their impression on me.
Black Angel has an opening that is too strong that the rest of the book doesn’t carry and becomes dull compared. Scenes of torture and violence to begin with that turns into supernatural entities which feels odd and, down right, laughable compared to the abject horror in the first chapter. Dull characters that lack in personality and emotion.