Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory

Title: A Quiet Belief in Angels
Author: R.J. Ellory
ISBN: 9781590202500, Overlook Press, 2009
Genre: Historical Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Rating: A-

First Line: I am an exile.

It's 1939, and in rural Augusta Falls, Georgia, someone rapes and murders a classmate of twelve-year-old Joseph Calvin Vaughan. It is the first of several such murders that span many counties, many sheriffs' jurisdictions, and many years. As a young boy in school, Joseph wanted the murders to stop, so he banded together with several other boys in his class to form the Guardians. All the boys felt that, if they could keep an eye on things, the murders would stop. They were wrong.

Fifty years will pass. Many little girls will be raped and murdered. And Joseph will remain haunted by it all.

I fell into this book and did not want to come up for air. Sure there were a few problems: sometimes the imagery was a bit overwrought or tangled, and Joseph seemed all too content to let life happen to him so he could agonize over it and write about it. Once in a while it strained credulity that not once in all those years did any of the sheriffs in the area ever find one clue or have even one tiny inkling of the murderer's identity, but those were minor annoyances for me. I was hooked by the story, by Joseph's voice, and by the tale that Ellory was spinning.


You sweet, silent, lost little girl.

I think of the woman you would have become. I wonder if somewhere there is a place that holds all these unfinished lives. Another plane, another world running parallel to our own, where the dead pick up their incomplete lives and live them out.

And I recall times when I tried so hard to understand the kind of person who could have killed so many children.

Perhaps South of Broad is still lingering in my memory, but as I read A Quiet Belief in Angels I found similarities in the rich language of R.J. Ellory and Pat Conroy-- evocative imagery, a strong sense of place, the power of memory, wounded characters who somehow find untapped wells of strength. It would be rather safe to assume that if you enjoy the novels of Pat Conroy, you're going to love R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels.

As I did. Joseph Calvin Vaughan and his quiet belief in angels will linger on in my own memory for some time to come.

*Review copy provided by Vida Engstrand of the Overlook Press.


  1. Not sure if I would read this one, as I struggle with stories like this since becoming a mum of girls. It sounds a good read though.

  2. I have this one on my list to read. Thanks for sharing about it.

  3. Thanks Cathy, this one went straight to my wishlist (and I may look for it in a minute on eBay). What a great review (and I love Pat Conroy, and will also have to get his latest one, which I have seen mentioned many times now!

  4. This guy can really write, but the book left me totally drained emotionally. It's unrelentingly grim (even if beautifully told). I kept waiting for redemption ... A real emotional rollercoaster

  5. Wow, the book sounds gripping and the setting sounds great!

  6. This one sounds like it could take over your life for a while. Interesting that it reminds you of the Pat Conroy book.

  7. I just ordered it and can't wait to read it :-)

  8. The language definitely is lovely. It sounds like quite an intense read!

  9. Great review! I'm adding it to my list.

  10. This sounds really good. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. Very thoughtfull post on belief .It should be very much helpfull.

    Karim - Creating Power


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