This book is quite a ride! In reading “Judging Angels,” one finds not so much a suspense/mystery novel as — well, spiritual suspense, I suppose. If science fiction can include beings on other planets, then spiritual suspense can include beings in other planes. There’s more than a touch of “The Twilight Zone” in the deliberate–but never slow–pulling aside of the veil, but there’s none of the preachiness that sometimes came with the show. It’s never heavy-handed and the characters are far more realistic in their individual struggles with their faith than are usually portrayed. There’s a distinct lack of religious tropes — there’s no fanatic, no absolute-denier-turned-convert, no almost-became-a-priest — none of the somewhat cartoonish types seen in most books with ostensibly Catholic characters. There is one small, non-religious trope — a kid has talents that are unexpected and helps save the day. It’s a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent story with very little in the way of overused dialogue or plot lines.
What there IS a lot of is well-developed characters and action that follows naturally from their flaws and strengths, both emotional and spiritual. The reactions moving the action along feel authentic, with the characters struggling (sometimes not so much) to rise above their psychological and spiritual injuries.
I can’t remember being so caught up by a story in a long time. The book moves fast; as other reviewers have said, it’s a page-turner. I had committed to reading it during my morning and afternoon train commute, but I broke down and read it over the weekend. The main character, George Able, catches the reader’s attention right off and does not let go. And it isn’t just George; in physics, there is a phenomenon known as the Venturi Effect, in which a fluid is compressed into a narrow space (a tube) and must speed up in order to relieve the pressure. Once the liquid speeds up enough, the pressure drops and forms a vacuum. Each character that comes into George’s life speeds things up that much more in a sort of literary Venturi Effect resulting from the increase in suspense regarding each one’s role and even identity. As in the Venturi Effect, the only way to relieve the pressure (i.e., suspense) is to read faster; and then the reader is caught in the vacuum. But what a ride!