Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Guest Review: Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell


From the New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club pickBack Roads comes this fast-paced literary thriller about a small town police chief who’s forced to dig into her own shadowy past as she investigates the murder of a teenage girl.

On the surface, Chief Dove Carnahan is a true trailblazer who would do anything to protect the rural Pennsylvanian countryside where she has lived all fifty of her years. Traditional and proud of her blue-collar sensibilities, Dove is loved by her community. But beneath her badge lies a dark and self-destructive streak, fed by a secret she has kept since she was sixteen.

When a girl is beaten to death, her body tossed down a fiery sinkhole in an abandoned coal town, Dove is faced with solving the worst crime of her law enforcement career. She identifies the girl as a daughter of the Truly family, a notoriously irascible dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals.

During her investigation, the man convicted of killing Dove’s mother years earlier is released from prison. Still proclaiming his innocence, he approaches Dove with a startling accusation and a chilling threat that forces her to face the parallels between her own family’s trauma and that of the Trulys.

With countless accolades to her credit, author Tawni O’Dell writes with the “fearless insights” (The New York Times Book Review) she brought to the page in Back Roads and One of Us. In this new, masterfully told psychological thriller, the past and present collide to reveal the extent some will go to escape their fate, and in turn, the crimes committed to push them back to where they began.

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:

Joanna's Review:

Tawni O'Dell's mother must have hated her, or, had no aspirations for her daughter beyond swinging from a stripper pole. I cannot imagine why else she'd have named her baby Tawni. Since a mother like this doesn't often exist, I assume of course that dear Tawni named herself in an attempt to really sell the white-trash factor of tawdry romances that she pens.

This is what I expected when I opened "Angels Burning," and it got no better when I read the first sentence of the first chapter which ended, "…trying to grope my recently ripened breasts." Yes, that's how the FIRST SENTENCE OF THE BOOK ends.

Strikes one, two, three, and fifteen hundred right there, Tawni. Lord above, I must be so much better than you.

Well thank goodness I had nothing better to do and felt like I could keep on judging this hapless writer and her ridiculous romance. So I kept reading.

And here's where I tell you how quickly I reversed my position and decided that Tawni and her uniquely spelled colorful name was probably just a product of the late 1960s and the creative spirits that birthed her, because this chick can WRITE. And I mean, WRITE. And, yes, she is so much better than ME. Her name could be Larry Curly Moe Joe and it wouldn't matter. You know how long it's been since I highlighted passages because I loved them so much, and not because they contained horrifying crimes against the English language? It's been at least a decade. I cannot wait to read everything else Tawni has ever written, because if it's half as good as "Angels Burning," I'm already a fan. I don't even care if one ends up being a romance.

No formulaic love story here: the main character is a 50-year-old chief of police named Dove, because DOVE had the white-trash mother! I had to laugh. (I do wonder if Tawni knows wherefrom she speaks…) Dove was named after her neglectful mother's favorite soap! Dove's sister, Neely, was named after "Valley of the Dolls," and their brother Champ was named after the mom's childhood dog. If these three don't serve to characterize their mother, who is long dead before the book even begins, nothing will.

The mother's long-ago death interweaves itself with the current crime: the murder of a teenaged girl, whose body was stuffed in the fictional version of Centralia, Pennsylvania's burning ghost town where underground coal mine fires still heat the ground and spew smoke through the cracks. The town in the book is much the same, or at least a section of it is—the police risk their own lives trying to retrieve the girl's body, tying Dove with a rope while she lowers herself into the hell pit to wrap her arms around the charred body, almost lovingly saving the girl, although of course she is far too late.

And the story begins.

Can't tell ya any more without spoiling it… There's nothing I wouldn't recommend about this book. If you read it and love it and highlight passages of your own, tell me what they are—I'd love to know if what spoke to you deeply is what spoke to me deeply. Dove (and Tawni through her) have plenty of deep thoughts to share.

5/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. Laughing my head off :) Great review. Sounds like I'll have to give this one a shake. Thanks for sharing!