Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 April 2019 from Little, Brown
ONE FAMILY, TWO HOLIDAYS, ONE DEVASTATING SECRET
To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.
Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…
And suspicion is a dangerous thing.
Fallen Angel is predominantly set in the Algarve across a dual timeline; 2002 and 2018. It concerns a missing child and the repercussions that flow from that. Echoes of Madeleine McCann, you might think and you’d be right, but only to the extent that one of the central themes of this book is conspiracy theories and how they abound, especially in a world of fake news.
Three villas sit at the end of a long track by the sea just past the village of Praia Mexilhoes. Two are owned by the Temple family and one by a lawyer named Vince and his wife, Laurie.
The Temples were Max, the patriarch, a psychology professor who found a degree of fame in analysing and tearing down conspiracy theories following a lively television appearance which made him instantly famous. Max’s wife Celia was an actress, most famous for playing a Servalan like character in a long running sci-fi TV series. Max and Celia have three children.
At the crux of this story is what happened to baby Niamh in 2002. Niamh disappeared, presumed drowned, during a party thrown by Vince and Laurie for the occupants of the three villas. Nothing has ever really been quite the same since then. Niamh’s mother, Ivy has become estranged from her family and has only returned to Portugal in the summer of 2018 to attend the scattering of Max Temple’s ashes.
Ivy now works in PR, and is a highly skilled corporate reputation manager who has more than earned the soubriquet ‘Poison’ Ivy. Keeping her distance from her brother and sister, their respective children and her mother, it is hard to work out just why she has come at all, so little grace does she show towards them all.
Vince’s new and much younger wife Kirsten is also there with their baby son, Arron and an 18 year old Canadian nanny, Amanda. Vince is reportedly on his way, having got held up due to last minute work issues.
Through flashbacks to 2002, we slowly build a picture of Max and Celia and their children. As you might expect, the perfect power couple have a less than perfect existence and we begin to understand why their children are the way that they are.
The nanny, Amanda has journalistic aspirations and is already a YouTube Vlogger, so she is usefully able to research the Temple family and help flesh out some of the family’s history for the reader.
Brookmyre constructs a multi-layered plot with well-defined characters, scope for many conspiracy theories and a particularly harsh view of the corporate PR world to which he seems to assign responsibility for much of today’s corporate weaseliness and fake narratives.
But it’s not just that world that is complicit in this novel; Brookmyre also looks hard at the wielding of fame and power; the responsibility that brings and how it can corrupt and poison everything it touches if left unchallenged and not held to account. He spins a tale of wanton deception and misdirection that is both evil and twisted. The old maxim of ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is held up here in all it’s tarnished glory.
Fallen Angel is a dark and disturbing story with characters that pin you to the page. You want to look away but you can’t. A domestic noir that raises the bar by several notches into an utterly compelling, spellbinding narrative about power, corruption and the vilest of conspiracies that lurk in the darkness, inside your home.
Verdict: This is chilling, tense and superbly crafted fare; beautifully constructed and sublime storytelling.
Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Early One Morning, which established him as one of Britain’s leading crime novelists. His 2016 novel, Black Widow won both the Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award and the McIlvanney Prize. His Jack Parlabane novels have sold more than one million copies in the UK alone.
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