Red Angel - Andrew Harper

(Trey Campbell, #2)

* Red Angel is the prequel to Night Cage. Andrew Harper is the pseudonym for horror writer Douglass Clegg *

The Darden State Hospital for Criminal Justice holds hundreds of the West Coast’s most dangerous criminals ­ psychopaths all. Trey Campbell has returned to work in the psych wing of Ward D, nicknamed Thrill-Kill Row, home to the most violent murderers. In these grim corridors Campbell finds a young man who claims to be in communication with a serial killer who has just begun terrorizing Southern California ­ a killer known only as the Red Angel. The Red Angel has taken a new victim, and Campbell has 24 hours to find him and face the terror at the heart of a human monster. To do so, he must trust the only one who can provide information ­ Michael Scoleri, known as Abraxas, a psychotic murderer himself, who may be the only link to the elusive and cunning Red Angel. Will it take a killer to catch a killer?

The plot for Red Angel isn’t a new one, but I don’t see it as the hack job some seem to for Silence of the Lambs. I see where a killer in a mental hospital is linked to a killer on the outside, but that’s where the similarities in. The motivation for saving the victim is different, the hunters are different, the backstory different.

The plot is fast winded, although it takes a bit of time to get past repetition and pick up. In the middle evolves a genuinely confusing mystery that keeps you reading until the ending slaps you in the face. Although the story itself could stand a little bit of fine tuning, it’s still interesting and addictive. One thing that keeps it so is the strong characterization and concentration on the creepy atmosphere and setting.

Trey Campbell as the psychiatrist is the main ringleader, tortured over a recent attack on his family by an escaped inmate. I loved this guy in Night Cage but didn’t find him as appealing here. Harper seemed to ‘harp’ a bit too much on Campbell’s reluctance to return to work, and his yearning to. (The whole love/hate relationship thing) After awhile it just got old and seemed like Campbell was whining. Also, it is warned in the book that Trey is worried about getting “too” into a killers mind, that all staff members are…this is repeated throughout the book, and Night Cage, so that it gets slightly old.

Jim, a larger character in the sequel, is still here but not shown as much (pity, I like him) We see more of the cop in the sequel, Jane ­ she’s a likeable character who seems genuine enough, but many of her scenes seemed unnecessary. The villains are effectively creepy and I found no fault with them.

The pacing was strong and sturdy, not letting me down, although some of the repetition hurt it slightly. A lot of care was taken to describe the setting of the hospital and all the security regulations; this hurt the pacing a bit as after awhile it wasn’t as needed.

Clegg, errr....Harper goes a little overboard at the beginning with choppiness but it kept me reading. He kept it short and sweet, as he does at times, which works for the most part, but he laid it on a little thick here. The middle stops this sin, though, and becomes easier reading. Overall, as always, his writing style is done in an enjoyable manner that keeps me one enthusiastic, pleased reader.

Red Angel turned out to be a good book that made my literary life a little happier.. It wasn’t as good as Night Cage, though; the plot wasn’t as compelling and addictive, and the characters were more interesting in the latter novel. This one is a decent thriller, and while it didn’t have as much suspense, it held genuine emotion and I appreciate that. Fans of Harper should enjoy this one. There wasn't that much suspense here, but it held a lot of spirit and strength, making my literary life a little bit happier. The plot packed punch, didn't run out of steam, kept going like the little engine that could.

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