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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

'Fallen' by Erin McCARTHY


Gabriel is a fallen angel, a ‘Grigori’. His punishment for a crime we are never explicitly told about, is to walk the mortal plain as an immortal – watching as the humans he makes connections and relationships with wither and die, while he goes on, unchanged.

In 1849 in New Orleans, Gabriel (now a philanthropic artist called John Thiroux) has found a way to forget his holy burden and exist without existing – he has become an absinthe addict, chasing the green fairy to forget his immortality. While succumbing to the numbing ecstasies of absinthe, Gabriel takes pleasure from his ‘kept woman’, Anne Donovan. But everything goes horribly wrong when one night, after chasing the green fairy, Gabriel wakes to find Anne’s mutilated body, and him the only suspect. As punishment for his perceived crime, Gabriel can no longer enjoy pleasures of the flesh without women becoming horribly, intoxicatingly addicted to him – addicted to the addict.

160 years later in modern New Orleans, Sara Michaels is still reeling from the brutal death of her mother.  She has contacted Gabriel, who is now moonlighting as a crime fiction writer, because she wants to simultaneously examine her mother’s cold case as well as the murder of Anne Donovan. The cases are very similar – both women killed by bowie knife, the women’s lover the only suspect in both cases… and then there’s the fact that Anne Donovan is Sara’s great-great-great-grandmother….

This is the second book in Erin McCarthy’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ series, the first book is ‘My Immortal’, and I have not read it. Despite being unfamiliar with the series’ start, I really wanted to like ‘Fallen’. It’s a great premise – fallen angel turned addict, forbidden pleasure without his lover becoming addicted to him. The thing is, the best thing about this book is the blurb – kind of like when a movie trailer shows all the best bits of the film.

There is so much potential in this book, and it’s just wasted. For one thing, the fallen angel aspect goes completely unmentioned until it’s convenient to wrap up the ending, by allowing Gabriel to pull angel super-powers out of his pocket and save the day. Gabriel only ever mentions in passing how upset he is to be locked out of the pearly gates – never delving into the reasons as to why God decided to punish him. Maybe this was covered in the first book, I don’t know, but without any background to Gabriel’s punishment, he is a totally flat character. Should mention that McCarthy's first book in the series wasn't about Gabriel, but a different fallen angel. 

As a reader we have to believe that since Anne’s death, Gabriel has been unwittingly making women fall head-over-heels in lust with him (one sandwich shop girl proclaims her love after he brushes an ant off her arm). But because we are given no prelude to Gabriel’s Grigori status, and only see him as an addict and then recluse, it’s completely impossible to understand his appeal.

Furthermore, there is absolutely zero chemistry between him and Sara. The timeline is jarring to begin with – we leap from 1849 to modern day to meet Sara as she knocks on Gabriel’s door – and there’s no build up to her meeting him. Sara has just lost her mother in a brutal fashion, and has just wrapped up the heinous criminal trial in which the prosecution tried to pin the murder on her…. Now we are to believe that after all that, she sought out a crime writer to dig into her mother’s cold case less than 6 months after the actual death?

Not to mention the fact that Sara became addicted to painkillers during the trial (a habit she seems to have conveniently kicked by nipping it in the butt early and attending NA meetings?).

Then there’s the fact that both Gabriel and Sara find themselves falling for each other for no discernable reason… Gabriel constantly laments that Sara is paranoid, burdened by sadness and pretty much at the breaking point. A friend of Gabriel’s points out that Sara would look hot; “if she didn’t look like she’s just come off a three-day bender only to find out her cat died”.

And Sara is just as hopeless at articulating her attraction – beyond saying that Gabriel has a nicely cut jaw and pretty hair –he’s a reclusive crime writer (who Sara suspects uses his writing to suppress his own murderous needs) and complains that he “can’t hear music anymore”.

Considering there’s been such build-up to the way women feel a violent need for Gabriel’s touch, the connection between Gabriel and Sara seems pretty damn limp by comparison.

The idea of Gabriel and Sara solving two murders – one from 1849, and another 6 months old – is pretty intriguing. But it’s pretty obvious that Erin McCarthy is not a crime writer. Interspersed with the story are snippets of articles and police reports from Anne Donovan’s murder case, these are sometimes long and mostly boring, offering no clues to the actual murder. There’s no actual ‘crime solving’ going on – Sara’s breakthrough is to deduce that it couldn’t have been a crime of passion for John Thiroux to kill Sara if it was done with a bowie knife – because who carries a bowie knife around with them? Yeah, brilliant bit of sleuthing there, I bet cops in 1849 were far too dim to figure that one out.

And then there’s the mystery as a whole – the villain of the story is mentioned in passing in the first few pages and then never bought up again, until the very end for a convenient wrap-up.

This book was awful. Stay away. It has lots of potential and a great blurb, but don’t be fooled.

1/5 (the ‘1’ is for a somewhat sexy piano orgasm scene… which isn’t nearly as intriguing as it sounds) 

2 comments:

  1. Oh, and the premise sounded so good! I too, hate when the supernatural being acts normal until the end and whips out the powers to wrap things up. It's very unfulfilling. Thanks for the honest review.

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  2. Danielle,

    I have wondered about this series - I've picked the books up and read the back then put them down. I never got that 'I must have this book' feeling. LOL

    Thanks for the great (and honest) review. I'm glad I went with my instincts and passed on these. :)

    M

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