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Angels in Stone - Tanja Kobasic The author asked me to review this book, and sent along a free copy for that purpose.

There are two stories in Tanja Kobasic’s Angels in Stone. The first is that of Claire Preston-Lockwood, an accomplished real estate broker, drop dead gorgeous, and cougarishly older than her studly hubby, Jonathan. Smitten when she met this diamond in the rough, she gave him an education, access to the finer things, and career opportunities, but she cannot give him the thing he most desires, a child. What’s a controlling sort to do? Turns out there is a way. All she has to do is sell her soul to Satan. She finds her hope in a voodoo priestess living in a dodgy neighborhood in the Bronx. And that is where the other piece of this story resides. Esperanca’s story goes back hundreds of years to the jungles of Brazil, and a ground war between the forces of Satan and God.

Claire was damaged as a child when her mother died in an auto accident. She has buried a secret about that event and it eats at her. It is fueled by her hatred of her father, whose infidelities she blames for her mother’s death. Claire shows occasional moment of humanity, but remains, for the most part, a stone cold bitch Angel. Her younger, and pure-hearted sister, Rebecca, was too young, or too innocent to have much recollection of their mother, and seems not to have been damaged by her loss.

The story here takes place in two time lines and with two very different looks and feels. Claire’s story is of her quest to keep her man, and she will do whatever it takes. It is contemporary, set in the high life of New York, where money flows like water and ethics are a sometime thing. Claire is not above the occasional blackmail to get what she wants. She is not a nice lady, and engenders little sympathy, from me, anyway. But the story picks up considerably once she encounters Esperanca.

Esperanca is a voodoo witch. She lives in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, a high-density, primarily minority neighborhood, not nearly as appealing as it’s most famous former resident, Jennifer Lopez. The Canadian author lived there for a while and gives us an informed look-and-feel of the place. Not a prime vacation destination. Claire may be our preening bird of paradise, but Esperanca’s arrival is where the story takes wing. Not only does Espie offer a mechanism through which Claire connects with the real bad guys, but she is also the teller of a fascinating back story. The character of Esperanca makes this tale fly, like a great actor to whom your eyes are drawn in every scene. Hers is the most angelic element of the novel.

Get out your Google, Bing or search engine of choice. There will be names and places to look up, which is part of the fun of this book. Names taken from, or based on angels are rampant. Kobasic takes the back-story to Brazil and peers several hundred years into the past. You will visit coastal Bahia, heart-of-darkness Mato Grosso, and get a front row seat for some nasty good-vs-evil goings on. I found this to be the most engaging part of the book. It also took a bit more attention, as there are several instances in which the rules of engagement were a bit of a challenge to keep straight. Too much maybe, but not quite enough to ruin the adventure. There are some striking visuals here too, as long as you do not suffer from ophidophobia. Some dark scenes are, or should be, a bit too disturbing for sensitive or young readers.

The book is a bit uneven. There are passages that I quite liked.
“You’ve been a bad girl,” Esperanca said, with a lazy smile. “Got a lot of fuckage on you.”
“What I’m getting at is that you fucked over a lot of people. Fuckage…like baggage. The depravity that you drag around with you like a ball and chain.”
But there is a bit too much telling, on top of showing. Kobasic has fun feathering her novel with bird imagery. My copy arrived with an actual black feather in it, a lovely, light-hearted touch. I hope that in subsequent volumes there is some more payload on the actual details of early missions in Brazil. I believe that is the plan.

If the battle between good and evil in its very primal state is your thing, you won’t go wrong with Angels in Stone. The author shows promise, and we expect her skill to continue developing as she works her way through this series.

This book is the first in a series. The second, Ashes in Stone, is due out later this year.

Posted 3/11/13