Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Suspense/Literary Fiction
Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words for main novel. Also includes a 10,000 word bonus short story.
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The author of one prior novel, Midnight on Mourn Street, which he has also adapted for stage, Christopher Conlon lives in Maryland. He has written numerous short stories and poetry collections. Conlon also edits books, most notably the Bram Stoker Award-winning He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson. For more, visit Conlon’s website.
A depressed, middle-aged alcoholic, Frances Pastan is also a famous author of children’s books. While on a book tour, purely on a whim, Frances decides to visit a small town she has vague memories of living in as a child. Her visit triggers recollections of her time there and her first good friend, Lucy Sparrow.
A Matrix of Angels was originally a short story, published in an anthology for charity and read by few. Over the years, Conlon kept coming back to the story, believing he hadn’t told it all. Eventually he built on this initial skeleton, expanding the story of Frances and Lucy into a novel. The original short story is included as a bonus.
A Matrix of Angels is one of those hard to pin down books. It has a murder with some mystery surrounding it, at least where the protagonist, Frances Pastan, is concerned. But the mysteries are more concerned with understanding events surrounding the murder and coming to terms with them than they are about finding the killer, who is identified mid-book. It isn’t a murder mystery. It has some traumatic childhood experiences that need to be understood and worked through, yet it isn’t a coming of age story. Despite not being either of these, it is also a book with plenty of appeal for fans of those genres. However, if I were forced to categorize, it has to go in one of the catchall categories, either literary or contemporary fiction.
While superficially a success, Frances’ life is in shambles. In revisiting a life-changing and traumatic time that she has long repressed , she is able to understand the events that led to her current situation. Going through this, Frances is almost practicing self-psycho-therapy, which will possibly set her on the road to a better place. Going through this exercise with Frances, the reader may glean some insights into human nature; the novel gives us a better understanding about how past events can both inspire us in positive ways and drag us down if we let them.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars