The story of the Alperton Angels is one that everyone knows the basics of, but no one knows the details. Eighteen years ago, the cult brainwashed a young couple, convincing them that a newborn baby was the Antichrist. The girl broke free and summoned the police, the Angels committed suicide and the couple and the baby disappeared, lost in the care system.
The fact that the baby, if alive, has now turned eighteen, prompts true-crime author Amanda Bailey to write a book on the Angels. If Amanda can find the baby, it will be the scoop of the year, but other authors are also on the case, in particular Amanda’s old rival Oliver Menzies.
As Amanda and Oliver delve a little deeper, it seems that the story that everyone knows is wrong – there are discrepancies in almost every detail. And some others who have got close to the truth have not lived to tell it…
To emphasise the “to me” part of that sentence, the average review on Netgalley for advanced review copies is 5 out of 5. I’m definitely in the minority here, and to be fair, this is an extremely well-constructed thriller. The format is similar to The Appeal, consisting of a compilation of various aspects of Amanda’s research – emails, Whatsapp conversations, transcriptions of conversations with informants – and the picture slowly coalesces, first to reveal the problems with the original assumptions about the case, and then finally to reveal the truth.
These revelations are very well done and there are some genuine surprises along the way. So what’s the problem?
Well, first of all, I don’t think this is really clued. This is far more of a thriller than the mystery that The Appeal was. I completely understand that authors want to change their style from book to book, but as that’s the case, could the blurb stop comparing Hallett to Agatha Christie? This is a complex plot with some really clever ideas but we are told almost everything rather than being given the chance to work things out.
There’s also a problem with pacing for me. It took almost half the book for me to get a handle on what exactly the reader was being asked to figure out/guess and so the first half seemed rather nebulous to me.
And finally, despite the author apologising to the families of those victims, I really didn’t like the use of real-life high profile murder cases – Jill Dando, for example – even in a casual way. Really didn’t see why fake names couldn’t have been used.
So, that’s why the book didn’t work for me, but I have to admire the structure and the ideas on display here, and as I said, most other reviewers seemed to love it – I can see why, but it just wasn’t for me.
The Mysterious Case Of The Alperton Angels is out on January 19th from Viper Books in hardback and ebook.