In Rice's slim second Songs of the Seraphim novel (after Angel Time), the angel Malchiah whisks ex-contract killer Toby O'Dare back to 16th-century Rome, where Toby must save Vitale de Leone, a young Jewish physician who's been implicated in the poisoning of his gentile master and accused of bringing a poltergeist-like dybbuk into the household. Toby resolves both problems efficiently, but tragedy ensues, shaking his faith and leaving him vulnerable to powers of evil lying in wait to exploit his weakness. Toby's life back in modern times also grows complicated with the sudden appearance of an ex-lover and the son he never knew, neither of whom he can share his angelic interventions with. Though the plot is surprisingly similar to that of its predecessor, Rice's fans will easily succumb to the charm of her lapidary prose and a cliffhanger ending that sets up the next book in the series. 200,000 first printing. (Dec.)
Former assassin Toby O'Dare (introduced in Angel Time) takes on his second mission to return to the past to right particular wrongs with the angel Malchiah. Here, he is called to 15th-century Rome to save a Jewish doctor from charges of witchcraft and murder. While in Rome he struggles with recent events in his present-day life: he just met a son whom he never knew he had. Although Toby is aware that his years as an assassin could come back to haunt him, he is shocked when his past quite literally catches up with him on the streets of New York City. Rice works the themes of past and present beautifully, weaving tale upon tale. This book improves on its predecessor by giving Toby a history and characters to care about. VERDICT This metaphysical thriller will appeal to historical fiction fans and Christian fiction readers, but it still feels a little flat and will disappoint fans of Rice's vampire fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10; Rice recently announced on Facebook that she's no longer a Christian but will continue her metaphysical series about angels.]—Amanda Scott, Cambridge Springs P.L., PA
Murder and mayhem are served up alongside metaphysical musings in Rice's latest (Angel Time, 2009, etc.).
Toby O'Dare is a magnificent mess. PTSD survivor of a hellish childhood (his mother slaughtered his brother), he's grown up wary, prickly, solitary. This makes him perfectly suited for his vocation/mission—service to the angel Malchiah as a kind of divine vigilante dispensing justice with James Bond cunning. It's a gig he debuted in Angel Time, the first installment of Songs of the Seraphim, a series that, in company with the author's prescient vampire chronicles and a catalogue of dozens of other titles, qualifies her as one of America's most dependably surprising storytellers. Proving herself a brilliant thematic schizophrenic, she here combines her Catholicism, underscored by her previous first-rate fictional takes on the Gospels, and her passion for the dark. A time traveler, O'Dare touches down in Renaissance Italy, assigned by his angelic mentor the task of guarding Vitale, a desperate Jewish physician whose house is possessed by a dybbuk (ghost). Anti-Semitism and fear of demonic possession cause neighbors to feel that Vitale is gradually poisoning a patient, Niccolò. In truth, it's Niccolò's brother Lodovico who's doing the poisoning, by means of death-by-caviar. Hip to the trick, O'Dare ponders motive, and hits upon the lovely Leticia. Turns out she's Lodovico's impossible object of desire, impossible because his father, Antonio, had promised the girl to Niccolò. Hence sibling hatred. As the plot turns increasingly operatic, Antonio gets in on the Vitale-bashing, convinced that the physician's prayers to strange gods are the cause of Niccolò's dwindling health. O'Dare, the one who unravels this dastardly complexity, rights it, and then proceeds throughout the course of this lean, speedy thriller to rid the world of further horror. The plot's intense; equally so are Rice's meditations, while never breaking the seamlessness of the story line, on the nature of love and evil.
A bullet of a book—and an absolute bull's eye.