Tragedy and the supernatural are not common occurrences in the small town of Clearwater - until a young girl appears at the local diner, drugged, abandoned, and with no memory of her past or who she is. Within hours after her arrival, madness begins to grip many of the people of Clearwater and grisly murders ensue. Seventeen year-old Grim knows something’s not right with the girl, but when his foster mother, Clara, takes her in, naming her Angel, he accepts her with the affection of a brother. When the town turns against Angel, believing she is the source of the atrocities, Grim rushes to protect her, wondering all the while if he could be making a terrible mistake in trying to save her.
The strength of Broken Angel lies in its main characters. They all have darkness in their pasts, something that haunts their dreams at night yet doesn’t keep them from being compassionate people by day. Of the main characters, the most rounded and complete is kind-hearted juvenile delinquent Grim. His street smarts from having lived on the streets of Seattle make him quick to action and savvier to the unusual happenings around the small town than some of the other people. Still, even with Grim, there are aspects of his past that could have been explored more deeply. Since the novel revolves mostly around him and his companions, there’s much teen angst and antics that are true to that age, including a rather humorous introduction to Grim as he and his friends battle other teenage boys for the control of a salvage yard using paintball guns and homemade potato launchers. Luckily for him, Danny, his brother through their foster mother, is the deputy sheriff and keeps him out of any serious trouble. Like Grim, Danny has a haunted past that would have been interesting to see more of than the couple nightmares he has about it.
There’s a fascinating story at work beneath the surface of Broken Angel in the mystery of who, or what, Angel actually is. Her role as an outcast with supernatural powers makes her a figure much akin to Stephen King’s Carrie, but unlike Carrie, whose powers are of a telekinetic and telepathic nature, exactly what Angel’s powers are, she appears to have more than one, and why she has the effect she does on people is never brought clearly to light. The story behind Angel seems to get lost under the body count and the effort to make each murder more shocking and gruesome. In the first chapter of the book, a question is posed about Angel: “What is she?” Unfortunately, this question is never answered, and neither are many others, which as the last page is read, leaves the reader with a sense of not being satisfied and frustrated at the final events that take place.
Despite its flaws, there’s a lot of good at work in Broken Angel as well. The writing is strong enough to keep the pages turning, and the character of Grim is wonderfully done. The plot has lots of potential, and the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. If such a thing does take place, hopefully the questions will then be answered.