Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review of Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott (Polis Books, 2015)

Eve Moran has a pathological need to take things without paying for them, then to hoard her collection.  Her target is usually cheap trinkets, knick-knacks and clothes – things that people will either not miss or won’t care about if they disappear.  From an early age, she relies on her own charisma, lies, and the efforts of others to evade serious punishment.  Nevertheless, she spends time in an institution to cure her of her compulsions and serves a little jail time.  Her daughter, Christine, learns that the way to her mother’s affection is to help her in her schemes, scams and swindles.  However, as she grows older she comes to resent her mother’s manipulative nature and eventually starts to resist when it’s clear that Eve is using her young son in one of her crimes.

Concrete Angel is marketed as ‘domestic suspense’ and that seems an apt label.  The story follows the life of Eve Moran, a compulsive petty thief and hoarder, from her adolescence in the 1950s to middle age, and her various trials and tribulations in and around Philadelphia.  In particular, it focuses on her strained relationship with her family, her husband and various lovers, and her daughter, Christine.  The latter slowly transforms from willing pawn and accomplice to resentful teenager, the change starting after she takes the rap for a murder her mother committed.  When Eve starts to use her young son in her crimes, Christine decides it’s time to try and end her mother’s behaviour.  The novel then is a relatively unusual for a crime novel given its extended timeline and its detailed character study.  Over the course of the story one really gets to know Eve and her family and their unfolding relationships.  The tale has plenty of drama, with an endless stream of crimes and scams, from shoplifting to murder.  Abbott, however, rather centring the plot on them, makes these a part of the everyday theatre of Eve and Christine’s lives.  The only bit that didn’t ring quite true to me was the ending, which felt a little underplayed.  Overall, an interesting tale told in an engaging voice.

1 comment:

Anonymous-9 said...

I haven't heard of domestic suspense, but it sounds intriguing. An early version of the manuscript crossed my desk a few years back and everybody knew it had lots of potential. Thanks for the review Rob!
Elaine Ash