Book Review – The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

books, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I was away, I didn’t get quite as much reading done as I expected. I took 4 hardbacks and my Kindle just to be safe. In the end, I finished 2 and got halfway through a third. Not bad but not what I was hoping for. It gave me time to finish this one, and I’m glad I finally read it. I’ve been putting it off for a while because I was worried about how I’d feel about it. I mean, how long can Janice Hallett keep going with her gimmick before it gets old? I love the DIY approach to crime fiction but it doesn’t really leave room for the depth I’m looking for. Then there’s the fact that I was disappointed with her second book. I’d told myself that this book would be the decider. If I didn’t like it then I would probably avoid any future books. At least ones with the same conceit. So, there was a little extra pressure on this one than normal. Would I enjoy it?

 I really enjoyed Janice Hallett’s debut novel. I think The Appeal was a really fun and enjoyable reading experience. It proved that contemporary crime fiction doesn’t need a twist that is impossible to guess. It just needed to feel new and different. Giving the reader an active role in the story was a great idea. Although, I don’t think it worked very well in the sequel. I found it too obvious and was left underwhelmed. The concept wasn’t enough to cover up a fairly mediocre story. So, I really wasn’t sure how I would feel about her third book. It certainly sounded like something I’d enjoy. Uncovering the truth of a bunch of grisly murders carried out by a cult leader? It sounded like exactly the type of thing I could get tied up in. 

Like her other novels, Janice Hallett’s third book s presented as a collection of documents about a criminal case. This time, the collection was compiled by true crime writer, Amanda Bailey. She has been tasked with writing about the Alperton Angels. Back in the 90s, the cult was convinced that they were angels in human bodies who have been tasked with destroying the anti-Christ. Something went wrong as most of the cult ended up dead with their enigmatic leader in prison for murder. Nobody knows what happened or why. The case has captivated many for years. Partly because the anti-Christ was a baby who disappeared without a trace. A baby who is now 18 years old and whose identity Amanda is eager to uncover. Can she find the Alperton Angels baby and bring a new perspective onto the mystery? 

I have to say that I enjoyed this book more than I enjoyed The Twyford Code but I really didn’t like The Twyford Code. If nothing else, Janice Hallett’s books are so readable and you really get caught up in the story. Working your way through the evidence and picking up on the nuances. It quickly becomes apparent that Amanda is someone to be carefully watched. The kind of writer who will do anything for a story. She lies to her contacts and twists the truth. When she discovers that someone from her past is also writing a book about the case, Amanda must team up with them and pool evidence. Though she keeps her cards close to her chest and happily records their conversations without telling him. How much can we trust this woman and her motivations?

In terms of twists, I think it is pretty clear where this book is going but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. I feel like The Twyford Code was more transparent and thin. This one, at least, attempted to keep us on our toes. That may be because there was a lot to keep track of though. There were moments when the story just got a bit too complex. There were too many strands to the tale and it seemed to be moving away from the realms of possibility. Something that doesn’t quite work in a book being presented as found evidence. My other problem with this type of book is that it just lacks depth. We don’t really get to know any of the characters and there’s no development. That just doesn’t work for me. We find out key bits of information about a character when Hallett decides that we should rather. It doesn’t feel organic or natural.

Janice Hallett is often compared to Agatha Christie. After reading her first book, I might have agreed. Now, I don’t think she’s anywhere near the Queen of Crime. Agatha Christie’s books may seem simple but she’s deceptive. Yes, her books are cosy crime novels but there is plenty of great writing to be found. There’s definitely a difference between a readable book and a great book. The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is certainly a readable book. It is the kind of book that you can’t stop reading even if you’ve already guessed what’s coming. However, I don’t think it’s a great book. It won’t stay with me afterwards. It lacked the cosy charm that made The Appeal so appealing. It felt cold and heartless. With every new book by this author, I’m starting to think that my love of the first book was mostly down to its originality. How long can this format be expected to stay fresh?

2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s