SPEAK, ANGEL by Mary Elsie Robertson


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The melodramatic events of a single afternoon and evening in the lives of the Trotter family--as seen, to little effect, through the eyes of seven of those involved. Factory-worker Burl, an ex-cowboy, leaves work early so he can lie in wait near the country-ish Trotter house, ready to kill his wife's lover. (Burl has moved out ever since learning of the adultery.) Wife Lenora, a hair-dresser, is at work, pantingly waiting for a call from hair-dresser/lover Charles--who, it turns out, will indeed be coming out for a rendezvous late tonight. The pre-teen Trotter daughters arrive home from school, afraid to be in the house alone--with smart Adele longing for the security of Grandma's. The teenage Trotter sons, who are leading semi-independent lives in the barn near the house, have contrasting impulses: Scott is a randy boor; Jeff is a secretly sensitive type, obsessed with visions of the angel of death. There are also glimpses of religious-fanatic Grandma and lover Charles--who's planning to dump Lenora in the near future. And then, as the wee hours approach, Charles does arrive, Burl does try to kill him--but it's Jeff, now revealed as an out-and-out psycho, who actually commits Angel-inspired murder. Robertson (After Freud, The Clearing) does generate a modicum of humdrum suspense as we wait for Burl to go into action. But the interwoven interior-monologues, presumably intended to produce psychological texture and ironic contrasts, merely emerge as padding here; Jeff's religious psychosis is unconvincingly prepared. And the overall impression, unlike that of the strongly-focused The Clearing, is that of much-ado-about-not-much--with that final murder-twist (the sort of thing that Ruth Rendell can bring off credibly) as an arbitrary, tacked-on fillip.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1983
Publisher: Atheneum