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Fallen
by Erin McCarthy
(Jove, $7.99, R) ISBN:  978-0-515-14462-8
****
Depending on your viewpoint, I'm either the very best or the very worst person to write the review for Erin McCarthy's latest, Fallen. I'm fascinated by angel mythology, love the city of New Orleans, and prefer my characters with flaws.

An entire series based on flaws and individuals suffering for giving into them is a different concept; many authors like their characters to come across ... well, angelic. Perfect. Sterling. McCarthy takes a different route – the Seven Deadly Sins series is about angels, falling from grace for committing human sins while doing their duty as guardians over the race.

Fallen brings us to Gabriel (going by the surname of St. John in 21st-century New Orleans), who is a true crime novelist. His newest novel involves two crimes: the first, of a prostitute in 1849 who the evidence suggests he killed himself while in a drug-and-alcohol-induced haze that would become the reason for his falling.  The second crime, just a year ago, involves the mother of Sara Michaels, a crime lab technician, who Gabriel recruits to help him with the book.

Gabriel doesn't let Sara know what he is, or that he, therefore, can answer many of the "unanswerable" questions about the Anne Donovan case. On the flip side of that, Sara neglects to tell Gabriel about the fact that she, her mother, and two other murdered women before her, are descendents of Anne Donovan. Sara's got control issues and is terrified that her mother's murderer will come after her next, especially given the pattern in her mother's family. She's recovering from an addiction to painkillers, and despite the fact that both know two addictive personalities together spells disaster, they get involved – kind of. Part of Gabriel's punishment for his sins is that women become addicted to him if he touches them.

There is a great deal of intrigue in Fallen, though the suspense falls pretty short except for a scene or two at the very end.  The end twists a few times, and may trick some readers, which – no pun intended – was unexpected. With a few more scenes of the sort to keep readers on the edges of their seats, this would most likely have been a five-heart review.

Too much suspense, however, would have hurt the fact that the book is primarily character-driven. There is so much beauty in the characters' flaws, and McCarthy makes the best of them. Likewise, her New Orleans proudly bares all of its stains as well, drawing the reader into enjoying the ambience in spite of the ugliness that accompanies any city. There seems to be a very philosophical edge to Fallen especially coming from an author otherwise known for her very chick-lit-esque Vegas vampire series, and the message that everything is glorious in its own way under – or perhaps because of – its flaws is flawlessly delivered.

It should be mentioned that this novel is not typical of any particular genre, paranormal, romance, or murder mystery. It's a complex combination of the three, and is certainly not the light read most of McCarthy's fans will expect. Gabriel is a fallen angel, after all, gone to the dark, and unlike most series that revel in that, he accepts it for what it is and fights the dark side of himself that brought him to this point. The reader is not spared from his struggle, and I feel that this series must be approached with an open mind.

--Sarrah Knight


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