I count myself as a major Linda Howard fan, and the majority of her books are favorites of mine. But in the last few years, I have found her past releases to be lacking. The last book I read by her that I really enjoyed was Drop Dead Gorgeous that came out in 2006. But since Linda is more well known for her romance suspense novels, I would have to say my last book under that genre was Cry No More back in 2004. It is now four years later and I have anxiously been awaiting for another powerful read much like Cry No More. The books that were published after it were so very disappointing, and when I heard Linda would have a new novel out in August, I was overjoyed. Death Angel had quite a buzz going on and I hoped that it would deliver the thrills and the romance I so look forward to in her books.
Unfortunately I must say that Death Angel is a major pass for me. I was able to finish reading in less than a day and afterwards I felt empty. I was close to making this a DNF, but because of my loyalty to Linda, I finished. Death Angel has an interesting set up, about a mistress of a high powered mobster, and the assassin he hires. The mistress and the assassin end up having a one night stand together. The first chapter grabs you in a way that no other book I have read in recent memory has done. Basically Drea Rousseau has been offered by her mobster boyfriend, Rafael Salinas, as payment to the mysterious assassin he has on his payroll. The assassin wants a few hours with Drea in return for a job well done. Rafael gives his permission and leaves his girlfriend of two years with the cold blooded killer. Drea has no choice but to do what the killer wants, and expects the worst. But Drea is a survivor and will get through this. Expecting the killer to be rough, and the sex painful, he surprises her by being very gentle and gives her the best four hours of intense loving she has ever had. After it is over, he leaves her and Drea is changed forever.
Incredible how great sex can change your outlook on life.
For the next few chapters, we see Drea forming a plan where she will leave Rafael and hit him where it hurts, his bank account. She will steal two million dollars and hide it in her own secret account. Since he thinks she is an airhead, he has no clue how smart Drea really is, because her persona is all an act. Plus, she is a very angry woman who wants Rafael to pay for giving her to another man. She also feels angry at herself, because her four hour lover made her come alive for the first time in her life. She will no longer be anyone’s plaything and make a better life for herself.
Up to this point I was very intrigued and couldn’t wait to see if Drea would get away and if the mysterious assassin would make an appearance again. Drea is able to escape from under Rafael’s nose and with the money. But not before too long, Rafael finds out and wants her dead. He hires the same assassin to kill her. And this is where the story becomes a bit confusing.
It seems to me that Linda had began writing Death Angel one way and then a quarter of the way through, decided to change the plot. What I assumed would be a woman on the run, and the man who must find her, essentially coming to fall in love with her and protect her, becomes a bit of a paranormal in a way. Drea ends up having a car accident where she dies. She sees the white light and is given a second chance. When she comes down to Earth, she is remorseful and has a change of heart. And oh yeah, she now can sense a person’s future. She has the “sight". If she comes in contact with someone, she warns them or gives them advice on their future. Why and how does this suddenly happen? Well, Drea, really named Andie, has seen the light, literally and figuratively.
Also at this time, the assassin, who we come to know as Simon, also has a sudden change of heart. He watched Andie die and now that he knows she has lived, he will watch over her and make sure she is safe. He becomes her angel in a way, her guardian. But he still has his day job as a ruthless killer, even though he takes some time off to make sure Andie doesn’t continue to go on the run or is found alive by Rafael.
Death Angel quickly lost momentum. I am all for an amoral character who changes his stripes, and I guess Simon is the hero, but he is written in such am ambiguous way that as the reader I can’t find myself to like him. Drea/Andie has a bit more merit because her thoughts and actions are more pronounced. I wanted to really like her, but again the way Linda writes Andie’s life change took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I even found the sex scenes stale and lacking, perhaps because I couldn’t find any emotional attachment to these two characters who I can barely like? Perhaps I just don’t understand a romance between a hit man and a woman who has risen from the grave, so the speak.
At least I will always have Cry No More and James Diaz, the near perfect Linda Howard hero who has my heart.
2 stars out of 5 stars