A Quiet Belief in Angels

Written by R.J. Ellory
Review by Julie Rose

A Quiet Belief in Angels follows narrator Joseph Vaughan, an author, who recounts the story of his life, from his time as a child in rural Georgia in the early 1940s to a hot, dark hotel room in 1960s New York City, where we learn that Joseph has just shot a man.

Previously published in over 20 languages and a bestseller in the UK, A Quiet Belief in Angels is the first of Ellory’s books to be available in the US. In a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, Joseph tells the story of his life, wreathed in heartache and tragedy, defined by a series of child mutilations and murders in his own hometown. When he finally escapes Georgia and moves to New York City to chase his dream of becoming a writer, he finds that has not escaped, and that tragedy and death itself has followed him.

Ellory renders mid-20th century America convincingly, with a good sense of place and time, through both description and realistic dialogue. That said, while the Georgia sections ring particularly true, the Manhattan passages suffer from too many historical details shoe-horned in. However, those quibbles are minor. This is a gripping mystery, beautifully written. Recommended.