Blood of Angelsby Reed Arvin
Reed Arvin's previous novel, The Last Goodbye, was "the best thing a thriller can be: suspenseful, intelligent, and well written" (Harlan Coben), and had the critics raving: People magazine stated, "You'll be hooked," and the New York Times declared it "sultry, devious, adrenaline-boosting suspense." Now comes a vivid and haunting tale/b>/b>/b>
Reed Arvin's previous novel, The Last Goodbye, was "the best thing a thriller can be: suspenseful, intelligent, and well written" (Harlan Coben), and had the critics raving: People magazine stated, "You'll be hooked," and the New York Times declared it "sultry, devious, adrenaline-boosting suspense." Now comes a vivid and haunting tale of one man's search for the truth no matter what the consequences.
Thomas Dennehy, senior prosecutor in Davidson County, Tennessee, doesn't recognize Nashville anymore: a decade of relentless immigration means cops are learning Spanish, and the DA' s office is looking for Vietnamese translators. Thomas's latest case is prosecuting Moses Bol, a Sudanese refugee who faces the death penalty for killing a white woman in the Nations, a notorious, racially charged part of town. Bol's conviction seems certain, until a university professor claims Thomas sent the wrong man to the death chamber in a previous case. The DA' s office is rocked to its core, but within days another blow falls: a beautiful and brilliant anti-death penalty activist mysteriously surfaces as Bol's alibi, claiming she was with him at the time of the crime. Bol's case becomes a lightning rod as protesters on all sides converge on Nashville and tensions threaten to explode.
Meanwhile, Bol's alibi has her own secrets and is terrified of someone working behind the scenes to get what he wants even if it means murder.
Will Dennehy be able to piece things together before everything he believes about the law, and about justice, is torn apart?
Vivid with the emotional complexity that has become the hallmark of Reed Arvin's work, Blood of Angels is filled with nonstop action, impeccable detail, and unforgettable characters, making this a novel that is impossible to resist.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt
Blood of AngelsA Novel
By Reed Arvin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Reed Arvin
All right reserved.
I am the assistant district attorney of Davidson County, Tennessee, and on May 18, 2004, I killed Wilson Owens. He was determined, and I was willing. We were like lovers, in that way. Wilson pursued me with a string of petty thefts and miscellaneous criminal acts -- working his way through his lesser loves -- until he could wait for our union no longer. On that day -- three years, two months, and eleven days before his own death -- Owens killed Steven Davidson, the manager of the Sunshine Grocery Store in east Nashville. The moment Wilson's bullet entered Davidson's chest, the dance between us began.
I mention these names because it's important in my line of work that they are remembered. Both are dead, and both are lamented by their families. Ironically, both have gravestones in the same cemetery, Roselawn Memorial Gardens, in east Nashville; Wilson is buried underneath a flat, nondescript stone inscribed only with his name and the duration of his life. A hundred and fifty yards away, Davidson lies beneath an ornate, marble monument paid for by his numerous friends, fellow churchgoers, and family.
Wilson was what society calls a bad man. The truth, as usual, is more complex. What is certain is that his life went off the rails as a teenager, when his father -- a man to whom the notion of family responsibility was as alien as a day without alcohol -- took a final uppercut at his mother and walked out the door. From those sullen seeds Wilson grew, nurtured in the subculture of the Nashville projects, until he emerged, at eighteen years old, already twice a father, already once a felon. His destiny was sealed, as was mine.
I was born to kill Wilson Owens as surely as he was born to be my victim. This is clear only in retrospect, of course. When I was growing up in Wichita, Kansas, the son of a civilian airplane mechanic who worked at McConnell Air Force Base, the idea that I would one day kill a man was as distant from my mind as India. My father's world was full of wrenches, grease, and secondhand tales of pilot braggadocio. I loved that world nearly as much I loved my father. In those days of blissfully low security, I would ride my bike from home to the base, wave at the bored guards, and screech to a halt outside the hanger 3, where my father worked. I would watch him clamber inside one of the huge General Electric engines hanging under the wing of a tanker, or, perched on his shoulders, I would peer inside the still-warm tailpipe of an F-15 fighter. He and the other workers wore flattop haircuts, black shoes, and the gray coveralls of Faris Aircraft, the company that subcontracted the overflow aircraft maintenance work at the base. I wore my hair the same way, even though in the early eighties this had all the cachet of a funeral director. It didn't matter. To identify with my father and the easygoing men of his world was all that mattered.
My mother lived in an entirely different world, one which I generally viewed with suspicion. A legal secretary, she worked in the grandly named but decrepit Century Plaza Building, an aging structure with noisy plumbing and elevators with doors that had to be manually pulled shut. The few times I went there -- no more than five or six in my entire childhood -- confirmed to me that the world of suits, ties, and paper-pushing was greatly inferior to the vibrant, masculine world of my father. My father's coworkers were muscular, told dirty jokes, and had eyes that sparkled when they roughhoused. The men of my mother's world all seemed slick, dark-haired, and smiling with secret agendas. That my mother seemed so completely at home in this world haunted me then, and now that I occupy the same world myself, haunts me still. To my surprise, I am more my mother's son than my father's, although physically I am his younger picture. I have his photograph before me now, as I sit at my desk at the DA's office on a gray, August afternoon. He is bare-chested, his wide-open smile pointed at the camera, a cigarette in his left hand, ready to fix any airplane that happens to roll by. Looking at his smile, I can almost believe he could fix the world.
On the day he died -- having fallen thirty-eight feet from the wing of an AC-130 Hercules onto the griddle-hot asphalt beneath the plane, breaking his neck as cleanly as a chicken's wishbone -- the world as I had known it ceased to exist. I spent the next year or so trying to bring him back, which my current profession has long since taught me is impossible. But at eighteen, the answer to my problems seemed to involve smoking a good deal of dope, drinking beer, and arguing with my mother over the direction of my life. Predictably, I wanted to join the military. She wanted me to go to college and become a lawyer. The compromise was inevitable: I agreed to go to college if I could be in ROTC, which paid my tuition in exchange for two years of active service. Since my father left us little, my mother could hardly refuse. I enrolled at Wichita State, and somewhere between marching for ROTC and an English class I found the part of my mother inside myself that I had denied. I was a hell of a student and a hell of a recruit. I put the two together, traded two more years of active duty with the Judge Advocate General's Corps for law school, and in 1992 walked out of Vanderbilt Law a second lieutenant ready to fulfill my commitment to the army.
Excerpted from Blood of Angels by Reed Arvin Copyright © 2005 by Reed Arvin. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Reed Arvin grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Kansas. After a successful career as a music producer in Nashville, Arvin began writing full-time. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
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I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. What I assumed was nothing more than a 'Law and Order' knock-off book became very interesting and intriguing. Strong characters, an intricate, layered plot. Really, really good.
Setting the pace for a remarkably compelling thriller Reed Arvin hooks readers with his opening sentence: 'I am the assistant district attorney of Davidson County, Tennessee, and on May 18, 2004, I killed Wilson Owens.' Now that Arvin has you he doesn't let go for a nano second as the plot suspensefully simmers to a boil and a knock-out conclusion. Thomas Dennehy, lead prosecutor for the Nashville D.A.'s office is responsible for Owens death in that he saw to it that Owens was convicted of murdering a shop clerk and received the death penalty. Dennehy is known amongst colleagues not only for his 'take-no-prisoners' attitude but also for the dubious distinction of convicting two men for the same murder. The EMT, David Bridges, who responded to the emergency call on that night did not save the life of Owens's victim because, as Dennehy made clear, he was under the influence of drugs. Bridges didn't get a lethal injection, but seven years in prison. All of that is becoming history to Dennehy as he finds himself embroiled in a trail focusing on Moses Bol, a well-liked Sudanese immigrant, for the rape and murder of a white woman. The trial threatens to inflame the Sudanese community if Bol is found guilty or if he goes free incite a riot on the part of those who don't think there's any place in Nashville for dark skinned immigrants. Claiming to be Bols' alibi for the night of the murder is a beautiful anti-death penalty advocate, Fiona Towns, who is the minister of a rundown city church, a haven for all the misfits Nashville has to offer. Totally devoted to her cause, Fiona can be naive and sometimes take unnecessary risks. Nonetheless, Dennehy is intrigued by her. Then, the past reappears when a prison inmate claims responsibility for the murder for which Owens was convicted - even says he can prove it by revealing where the murder weapon is hidden. If this is true the Nashville D.A.'s office will have executed the wrong man. Dennehy and his co-workers are besieged by the media as they try to honestly find the truth. Professional problems aren't enough for Dennehy - he has an 11-year-old daughter, Jazz, whom he adores and a former wife for whom he still has feelings. Dennehy is one of the most likable protagonists to appear on thriller pages - he starts his day with coffee and Zoloft then goes out to face the world. He's human, more than accessible to readers. Dennehy lives alone with only Indianapolis, his cat, for company. When he finds Indianapolis dead in one of the most gruesome killings imaginable, he realizes that someone is after him for reasons unknown - one more conundrum to torment him. The next to die is a colleague, his best friend. It seems that a very clever, sadistic killer means to take away everything Dennehy cares about. Arvin's descriptions of Nashville, most specifically The Nations, are on target perfect. Known for his assiduous research, Arvin has presented a shocking thriller that rings true whether its his attention to detail gleaned by interviews with forensic experts or drug enforcement agents. There may be no such thing as a perfect crime, but if there is a perfect crime novel Arvin just wrote it. - Gail Cooke
Davidson County, Tennessee Assistant District Attorney Thomas Dennehy successfully prosecuted the state execution of teenager Wilson Owens for the murder of grocery manager Steven Davidson and sixty-eight years old customer Lucinda Williams. However, Lucinda was alive when EMT Charles Bridges on methamphetamine stuck an air tube down the wrong hole. Thomas prosecuted with Charles spending time in prison for negligent homicide. --- Case closed ¿ wrong. Kwame Jamal Hale, with Professor Buchanan of the Justice Project at his side, confesses he did the homicides setting up Owens, for the fall, and he claims he has the proof. The media is in a frenzy that Thomas, who convicted two separate independent individuals for that crime, may have hung the wrong guy. This interferes with a death penalty prosecution of Sudanese immigrant Moses Bol, accused of raping and killing with his DNA all over the crime scene. A ¿credible¿ witness, Presbyterian pastor Fiona Towns insists Moses was with her at the time of the homicide. Adding to Thomas¿ doubts that he can find any juror to support capital punishment at this time, someone is stalking him. --- BLOOD OF ANGELS is a fabulous legal thriller that takes a close look at capital punishment from various perspectives including the prosecutors, the criminals, the Justice Project volunteers, and a much divided community. Thomas is an interesting protagonist who struggles with how infamous robbery-murder impacts on his current homicide case while anti-death-penalty demonstrations and race riots engulf Nashville. The personal threat to Dennehy is not as effective as it could have been if the stalker had been an anti capital punishment zealot conceptually similar to an anti abortion person killing the ¿enemy¿. Still this is a gripping tale. --- Harriet Klausner