A Killing of Angels ~ Kate Rhodes

a-killing-of-angels-by-kate-rhodesLast week I gave up on a new crime novel that I had been assured by one eminent critic was absolutely superb.  I’d tried the first book by this particular writer (no names, no pack drill because as you might already have sussed, I don’t have anything complementary to say about them) and given up on it in despair. However, given the praise that was being lavished on number two, I thought I’d better have a second go.  I made it through all of three chapters before deciding that life was just too short and anyway why subject myself to that sort of pain. And painful it was because the writing was full of clichés at just about every level.

Fortunately, I then turned to the second novel by Kate Rhodes in her series featuring psychologist Alice Quentin, A Killing of Angels, which is just about as far from that disastrous experience as it is possible to be.  Rhodes’ first two published works were collections of poetry and her love of and ability to mould language shows on every page.  As does her erudition.  Her first novel, Crossbones Yard, takes Alice down onto the banks of the Thames where she draws comparison between what can be seen there today and the prints that Whistler made of the same area and published in 1871.  It just so happened that on the very day I was reading that I had been looking at one of those selfsame prints.  It was a lovely moment of  serendipity.

Rhodes can sum up a character of a situation in a single well chosen word. Here she is describing one of the clients of a high class prostitute being observed by Alice towards the end of a particularly nasty case that she has been called in to advise the police on.

A careworn businessman marched up the steps at eight o’clock. He looked like he worked all day at the Treasury, balancing important sums.

It’s all in that last word, isn’t it?  Every ounce of the disdain she has encouraged us to feel about the denizens of the Square Mile, every last inch of the man’s own misplaced sense of importance, is captured in that one word, sums.  It’s simply perfect.

Why is Alice spying on the clients of a highly paid call-girl?  Well, someone is going around killing bankers and people associated with them.  No shortage of suspects there then you might be forgiven for thinking.  But these are all associated with one particular bank, Angel Bank (a misnomer if ever there was one) and as each of the victims is found with a picture of an angel and a sprinkling of white feathers it does seem fairly obvious that this culprit is someone with a specific grudge against one particular institution.

Alice is not yet recovered from the trauma of the Crossbones Yard investigation and still trying desperately to do something to help her brother, Will, whose mental health is parlous but who refuses to take the medication that might keep him on a stable plain.  So, when the hapless detective Don Burns seeks her aid again she is less than happy to offer assistance but as she owes him a favour feels she can’t really say no.  Saying yes, however, brings even more problems than their previous encounter and the situation is not helped by rivalry within police ranks.  Burns does have a habit (albeit unintentional) of rubbing his colleagues up the wrong way.

One of the things I like most about Rhodes’ work is her love of London and the warmth with which she portrays it.  In that she is not unlike Laura Wilson, whose novel, The Riot I wrote about last week.  There is something about the city that seems to bring out the best in those authors who clearly love it and it shines again in this book.

If Rhodes is a new name to you then I would suggest that you begin with the first in the series.  If you’ve read Crossbones Yard and are wondering whether to pick up this second instalment, I would say don’t hesitate.

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24 thoughts on “A Killing of Angels ~ Kate Rhodes

  1. Ooh Kate Rhodes is a new name to me, and I do love a bit of crime. I will look out for that first one now (sounds like they definitely need to be read in order). But isn’t it a shame when bad things happen to good expectations? Still, there are a LOT of books and life is short.

    1. Yes, far too many books to be read in far too short a time to take up space with bad ones. You could read ‘A Killing of Angels’ without having read the earlier novel, but I always like to start at the beginning with a new series.

  2. My mom loves crime and it is the only thing she reads. I’ll have to ask her if she knows about Rhodes. If not, you might have just helped me figure out what to get her for Christmas!

    1. Always glad to help, Stefanie. There are so many new writers on the crime scene at the moment that sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a problem.

  3. I did read ‘Crossbones Yard’ and enjoyed it, particularly the descriptions of London, as you say. So thanks for this reminder about Rhodes – this one had managed to slip under my radar. 🙂

    1. Her first novel got a lot of publicity, especially on Amazon, but this one has slipped out pretty much unheralded. It was only because I specifically checked for her that I found out it was available.

    1. The trouble with having a book sensitive radar, Cleopatra, is that sometimes all the books come home to roost at the same time (mixing metaphors there, but so what?). This was one of seven that all turned up at the library at the same time after weeks of nothing at all arriving.

  4. This is new to me but I really like the sound of it so will start at Crossbones Yard as you suggest! I also like the idea of a book that does justice to London – I’m biased maybe but I think my adopted home city is a wonderful place so I love reading stories set here!

    1. She certainly does love London, Col, but do you know Laura Wilson’s ‘Stratton’ Novels? Now she does the history of London since 1941 in those better than anyone I know other than Ackroyd. They are primarily crime fiction but the setting is every bit as important as the characters.

  5. Kate Rhodes is a new name to me too, so yet another author to look out for. There are so many books by new-to-me authors that I sometimes get swamped by them, not knowing what to read and tired of stereotypical characters etc. I like the extract you quoted – her style seems precise and to the point.

    1. Yes, there are so many new authors on the scent, Margaret and it really is a case of sorting out the wheat from the chaff. I am getting really fussy and if I come across any really sloppy writing then I’m afraid the book just goes back to the library and I strike the writer off the list. There are too many good authors out there to waste time with those that slip through the net.

  6. A new name to me as well, and I would have passed by the book because the cover does a little generic. But this does sound good, and I love to visit London by book, so I’m off to check the library catalogue.

    1. Do try and get her first one to begin with, Fleur. It is possible to read this as a stand alone, but Alice’s relationships, especially with her family will make so much more sense if you have read “Crossbones Yard’ first.

  7. Nice review, Alex. Kate Rhodes is a new name for me too. I’m not much into crime fiction myself, but I know some people who are, so this (or the first in the series) is being added to my list for Christmas gifts!

    1. Thank you, Andrew. You might want to consider ‘Crossbones Yard’, her first novel as it will help your recipients understand the background so much better.

  8. You might just have helped resolve a problem of what else to buy a dad who seems to have read pretty much all the crime fiction big names. LOL
    And I agree with you on that word choice. Very clever writing

    1. You can hear rather than see the care that has gone into the writing, Karen. She has some way to go with plotting yet but the pleasure or reading her prose outweighs that for me.

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