Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: The Black Angel

This entry is part 56 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

The stress, will it ever end?

Two man vs bookshelf blogs ago I said I was no longer going to put time limits on when I wrote these blogs, and when I did my writing.

I’ve been editing my novel, and it was taking so long, and becoming so draining. I was postponing task after task after task until I had about fifty items queued a day between editing, blogging, reading, and the tasks for my actual job.

The one I’m paid to do.

To reduce the stress, and stop me from having a mental break down, I moved all my blogging and editing items out of my daily tasks and into a new list with no due dates. I would still work through them as and when I could but without the pressure of getting them done by a certain point.

It was, if I’m honest, a massive relief.

Anyway, one week later that’s out the window.

Surprise surprise.

Technically, I haven’t broken my promise to myself. I still have no due date attached to my blogging and editing tasks.


I have now decided I want to finish my editing by a certain point because I want to get my novel out on the first of November. If I don’t do that, I won’t have released a book for more than 12 months, and that is unacceptable to me.

1st of November I hear you say, that’s not so close. Why are you crying?

Well, one, how do you know I’m crying? I’m not crying. You’re crying. Go away.

Second, while it seems a while away it isn’t. I’ve still got to finish this draft, send it to beta readers, get it back from beta readers, do the final draft, spell and grammar check, get it ready for publishing, and get it out there.

No easy task. Especially when it’s almost September, and I’m only getting a couple of chapters edited a week.

So out the window went the pressure-free lifestyle and I decided I would edit two whole chapters on each of my days off between now and the end of the first week of September (which I have off).

(all the while doing my blogging.)

That way, I would finish this draft of my book by the end of that first week of September, and be able to send it to beta readers.

Yesterday (Saturday 18th August) was the first day I was set to edit two chapters.

I did one and a half.

Yep, great.

So I was behind the curve coming into Sunday, and I wanted to catch up.

So far, I’ve done one and a half again. So I’ve one to go, and it is only 15:57 as I type this sentence.

That might be okay, you’d think, only I’m about to stop for two hours to watch another limp performance by Man Utd and then, of course, it will be dinner. Plus I’ve got to finish this and also my book I’m due to end reading tonight so…

It all stacks up, then falls over. A crushing weight threatening to squash me to death.

At least then I’d no longer have to worry about getting everything done.

I jest.

While it’s a struggle to get everything done, I’m pleased with how my editing is going. I have faith this is going to be an outstanding novel. That maybe it will be a success.

Who knows? I can but try.

In the meantime, I’m putting this laptop down now to watch football. But I’ll be back in a couple of hours time to tell you about my latest book…

The Black Angel

Man U lost. Crap performance. Let’s move on.

A couple of years back I decided I would quite like to write a detective novel.

I’m not sure what brought this on, but I think it had something to do with Harlen Coben’s fantastic series of novels about Myron Bolitar, a sports agent cum detective.

The difference was I wanted my detective to be an actual PI and, with this in mind; I sought books about PIs.

During my search, I acquired three books. None of which I read before this challenge began.

The first was J.K. Rowling penned The Cuckoo’s Calling, which I loved and which I have reviewed earlier in this series.

The third was Extraordinary People by Peter May, which I will read in the not too distant future for this challenge, and the middle was The Black Angel by John Connolly about private detective Matthew Parker. This book.

So, without further ado, I’ll tell you what I thought of it.

Reading order

Annoyingly, this is not the first Parker novel. As I’ve mentioned before I hate reading or watching series out of order, even if the creator says reading in order is not necessary.

Had I not started this challenge I probably would have bought the first Parker novel, and read that. If I liked it, I would have kept buying until I reached The Black Angel.

Sadly, this challenge forced me to break my rule, as I did with Jack Reacher novel – The Hard Way, so I’m diving into this without any backstory on characters I might have if I was allowed to read it in order.

Mystery meets mystical

Before getting hold of this book, I had no idea who John Connolly was, nor his detective Matthew Parker.

I found the premise of the Parker series interesting. Detective series tend to be routed in the real world (if not the realistic world), so it’s interesting to see this alternative take.

Parker’s world is dark. Kind of reminiscent of Nolan’s Gotham. There are plenty of gangsters and criminals and ordinary bad people.

But also, there are demons.

Like actual, biblical demons.

At least there are in The Black Angel, which is about the last Angel cast from heaven after the battle between God and Lucifer.

The mystery itself involves the gruesome murder of Parker’s mate’s niece, and the story involves the attempts of the demons to free a trapped demon.

So, it’s essentially Sherlock Holmes crossed with The Mummy. Crossed with Batman.

But no superheroes.


Not content with blending two genres not usually combined, Connolly also employs an unusual style of narration.

Sections involving the detective Matthew Parker are first person, with him narrating, while every other part is in the third person.

This was an interesting take, but I’m not sure how well it worked. For me, the third person bits worked better, and I think the Matthew Parker bits would not have lost any impact also being in third.

I read somewhere that the only reason to tell a story from the first person is that the narrative structure demands that it be the first person.

For example, in the Martian, or any other diary based novel, it wouldn’t work in the first person.

For a story such as The Black Angel, where the first person character isn’t even important enough to be involved in half the chapters, I’d question why his bits need to be in the first person.

The Detective

Which leads us to what I thought of Matthew Parker, our lead.

I think I allude to this above, but in a series of detective novels, you remember the detective. Otherwise, you should do a series of stand alones.

The Myron Bolitar mysteries are all smart and well worked, but Myron is the stand out aspect of the books, as well as his partner, Win.

I loved the mystery in Cuckoo’s Calling but again Cormac was a great lead character, and he is the reason I’d go back to the series.

There was nothing wrong with Parker. But there wasn’t much right with him either. He was just… there.

A natural character to carry the story along but he wasn’t strong enough to make me want to return to the series. Despite his having plenty of baggage in his struggling relationship and the memory of his dead wife and child.

And when that isn’t enough, there’s something seriously wrong.

Story and prose

While the detective didn’t blow me away, I did enjoy the story. The concept was exciting, and the mystery was engaging throughout.

However, I felt it was held back by the prose.

Both in dialogue and description, this was often flowery beyond belief. If that’s the right word.

It was floating and speculative. The book was long, and I think if you cut down to the story of it it would be vastly improved.

The pace lagged, and I found myself skipping the opening few pages of each chapter (and several in the middle) to get to the story of it.

Not what you want.


This book had its moments, but it was dragged down by dragging prose and a main character that didn’t stand out.

While I liked the concept and the story elements, there wasn’t enough here to convince me to read further books in the series, and sadly I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

Next time

Next time around we’ll be looking at another book on football. This time looking at the stats in Soccernomics. 

See you then. 

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Am I Proud?Man vs Bookshelf: Stress and Soccernomics >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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