Saturday, 26 May 2007

Mike Ripley: Angel in the House (2005)

Published: Allison & Busby Ltd, 2006

This was my first read of one of the Angel novels, though it is in fact the twelfth featuring the feckless detective. In Angel in the House, Angel is faced with something that he has always tried to avoid: he has to get a job. Luckily (though not from his point of view) his partner Amy May buys a stake in a private detective agency, so that is where he goes to work. Soon he becomes involved in a bizarre case involving suspected missing Botox, as well as investigating potentially haunted mansions in South Cambridgeshire.

Most comic crime fiction is heavily indebted to Hammett and Chandler, whose hard boiled style is easy to parody (though not so easy to parody well). The Agatha Raisin books parody Christie and other stalwarts of the traditional murder mystery, but I find them unbearable. Angel is not really a detective from either school; in fact, he'd much rather not be a detective at all, and just be supported by Amy. So he blunders around, making inappropriate jokes, and getting into awkward situations. Generally, this is funny, though he is sometimes exasperatingly feckless. The balance is towards the right direction, however.

As a crime novel, the plot is not terribly difficult to untangle, particularly the hauntings. The mechanism behind the botox thefts is ingenious, however, and the central characters will keep even the most cynical genre fan happy through the novel. I wouldn't want to read several of them in quick succession, but I will look out for them in future, after a suitable interval.

1 comment:

Jo said...

This was my first encounter of the Angel series as well. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I stayed up till 2 in the morning and abandoned work to finish it. It rivals No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, my gold standard, and seems to me modern-day-Wodehouse. Feckless yes, but that is the essence of the story isn't it? Feckless people who don't mind everyone regarding them as feckless - they encourage it.

A best read for a weekend when you just want to chill with a bottle of cold white wine, smoked chicken and salad.