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The Black Angel


The Black Angel

John Connolly's work is steeped in darkness. Since introducing his
metaphorical everyman, Private Investigator Charlie Parker, in
EVERY DEAD THING, Connolly has been painting horrific, suspenseful
tales set against the deceptively quiet landscape of the south
coast of Maine. Almost from the first page of his introduction,
Parker has been haunted by heartbreak and death, which seem to
follow him and which, by turns, he almost imperceptibly seems to
find on his own. Subsequent Parker novels --- DARK HOLLOW, THE
KILLING KIND, THE WHITE ROAD, and the novella "The Reflecting Eye"
in the short story collection NOCTURNES --- have led Parker ever
more deeply into the darkness of his own heart. All that has gone
before, however, is but a prelude to Connolly's latest

THE BLACK ANGEL is by far Connolly's most ambitious work, a tale
poetic in the telling that is global in scope and timeless in
origin, going from the present to World War II to medieval times to
the beginning of all that is and back again. Characters, major and
minor, are introduced and dispensed with in the space of a few
pages, yet remain indelibly marked in memory. And while THE BLACK
ANGEL is marked as "A Thriller," or certainly under the more
general category of "Fiction," one gets the feeling while reading
it that Connolly is having a marvelous jape on us, that he is not
writing fiction here, and he knows it. There is too much within
this book that has the ring of truth to it to confine it solely to
the realm of an entertainment.

This is not to say, however, that reading THE BLACK ANGEL is not a
riveting, if challenging, experience. It begins, appropriately
enough, with an account of the rebellion of a group of angels
against God, an affront for which the rebels were summarily cast
out of heaven and into the exile of hell. Yet it is said that some
of these rebellious creatures fell to earth, secreting themselves
deep within the dark recesses of the world until they were
accidentally released. They took on the appearance of men and
sought to live among them, creating a kingdom of chaos and

These creatures were led by the twin demons Ashmael and Immael, the
Black Angels, two who once had been one, each bearing the mark of
God on them. It was Immael's misfortune to be caught and imprisoned
by a monk who knew his true nature and who hid him well from his
brother. Ashmael searched for his sibling for hundreds of years,
aided by those who shared his nature and others who were seduced by
his promises. They called themselves "Believers," and as Charlie
Parker is about to discover, they exist to this day. The Believers'
only clue as to the whereabouts of Immael is a map that exists as a
group of fragments that have been scattered throughout the world.
The Believers have been slowly accumulating each of these
fragments, and, as THE BLACK ANGEL begins, they are close to
acquiring all of them.

Parker is drawn into this unholy world when he comes to the aid of
his friend Louis. Alice, Louis's cousin, is herself fallen, an
addict supporting her drug habit by prostituting herself on the
streets of New York. Alice accidentally becomes involved in the
Believers' quest and is horribly murdered as a result. Louis,
seeking his cousin and wanting vengeance, draws the attention of
the Believers to him before either he or Parker knows what they
truly are. Yet one of them --- a horrific monster of a man named
Brightwell, who appears to have existed for hundreds of years ---
believes he recognizes Parker for what he is. If Brightwell is
correct, Parker could have ties to the Black Angel and to the
Believers, which would explain the tragedies that have occurred in
Parker's life and provide a reason why violence and corruption of
the heart and soul have shadowed Parker for all of his days. Parker
and his friends are dogged by the Believers every step of the way
as they try to locate the hidden Immael and prevent the unification
of Immael and Ashmael, as Parker attempts to save all who he holds

THE BLACK ANGEL is nothing less than a classic work, a tale in
which one can feel reality shifting and churning uneasily with the
turn of each page. Highest possible recommendation.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

The Black Angel
by John Connolly

  • Publication Date: January 31, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • ISBN-10: 0743487877
  • ISBN-13: 9780743487870