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The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett - Review

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

After I read and enjoyed The Appeal by Janice Hallett so much I decided to read her other books too. I was given The Twyford Code for Christmas by my brother in law and his fiancee, but I haven't yet got round to it. But I requested this at the library and it arrived really quickly - apparently I'm the first person to read it! My mum read and enjoyed The Appeal so I'll encourage her to read this too. 

So, like The Appeal, this isn't told in prose. Instead, we're told that what follows are the contents of a safety deposit box that a woman called Amanda Bailey has left behind. The reader is supposed to read through her research and come to their own conclusions. The research is made up of emails and text messages between Amanda and lots of other people, as well as bits torn out from several novels and scripts. 

The case is well known - the case of the Alperton Angels. The angels were a cult who believed they genuinely were angels who walked the earth. The ring leader was Gabriel. There were other archangels, and then two teenage recruits, Holly and Jonah. In 2003, the archangels were found dead in a warehouse with their bodies mutilated. Holly and Jonah were rescued, and upon arrival at the hospital it turned out that Holly had a small baby in a carrier bag with her. Holly, Jonah and the baby disappeared, the baby adopted, and Holly and Jonah protected due to the fact that they were minors at the time. 

Gabriel is currently serving a life sentence for his part in the mutilation of the other bodies and for the murder of a young waiter whose body was found nearby. He claims he didn't murder Harpinder Singh and remembers nothing about it. The baby is about to turn eighteen, which is where Amanda Bailey and another journalist call Oliver come into the picture. They have each been commissioned to write a book about the case and are each in pursuit of the baby, which would be a huge coup to them and their respective books. They know each other from years back, and it becomes clear that Amanda holds a grudge against Oliver. However their editors decide that they would be better off working together, so hatchets have to be buried for a while at least... 

They start asking people who were involved in the case about what happened. It becomes clear there are discrepancies in accounts - were there really weird symbols on the floor where the bodies were found? Who was the mysterious Marie Claire, and was she a white woman or Black? 

Then there are people who contact Amanda herself, including a scripwriter whose script won an award. There have been several fictional accounts of the Angels, including two TV shows and two novels. Amanda is warned off trying to find the baby, so she tries very hard to find Holly and Jonah instead. Oliver bags an interview with Gabriel, but seems to come under his manipulative spell too...

Most of the 'action' of the book is conversations that Amanda records, usually without the other person knowing, which are transcribed by her friend Ellie. Ellie comes into her own at the end of the book.

I enjoyed the mystery and like with The Appeal I guessed some of the twists but had no clue about the others. I do wonder about the current craze of writing books in non traditional ways - ie with no prose - it's certainly interesting and personally it compels me and keeps me reading and turning the page. I'm giving this book four out of five. 

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