Christine was twelve years old when her mom, Eve Moran, shot her current boyfriend, Jerry Santini, dead in their apartment. It wasn’t long afterwards before Christine once again took care of her mom by claiming to have killed Jerry Santini. After all, cleaning up after her mom was a job Christine had really gotten really good at by then thanks to the fact she had lots of practice over the years.
Told in flashbacks of various lengths through the book, Concrete Angel by Patti Abbott details eighteen years of Christine’s life. From 1964 to approximately1982 in various locations in the Philadelphia area Christine dealt with a life of quiet family chaos. While the book opens with the shooting that in some ways did change things in other ways it was a minor blip on a long and wide ranging continuum of the family dysfunction.
Such issues are frequent topics of the author’s shorter fiction. While multiple crimes are present in the book, the psychological relationships are the heart of Concrete Angel. Hence the labeling of the book as “domestic suspense” in this age of making everything fit a nice neat designation. Makes sense if you also believe that Faulkner is domestic suspense as there is definitely a tone of Faulkner throughout the read. Granted the book is set in the Northeast but the characters could have easily come out of the Deep South. Right down to the neat freak bigoted Grandmother who is all about appearances over everything and anyone else.
The relationship between Christine and her mother takes precedence for a variety of reasons, but there are other familial relationships at work here that don’t always have Christine’s best interests at heart. The aforementioned Grandmother an obvious case in point, but there are others just as guilty. This is not one of those families you wish to be born into if your goal is a safe and nurturing environment. A mighty good book that defies easy labeling, Concrete Angel is a complex read that pulls you in deep and will haunt you long after the read is finished.
Paperback (also available in audio and e-book formats)
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015