Book Review: A Prayer for Deliverance: An Angela Bivens Thriller
Publication Date: Feb 25, 2003
List Price: $23.00
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Reviewed by Thumper
Christopher Chambers has returned FBI agent
Angela Bivens, to the frontline in his marvelous sophomore thriller, A Prayer
For Deliverance, an intense, gripping adventure. While enjoying the flow and
mood the novel evoked, I was a little disturbed that certain characteristics of
the novel had a d’j’ vu factor that threatened the overall effectiveness of this
We left our heroine, Angela Bivens, at the end of the fantastic Sympathy For The Devil, mentally and physically exhausted, shot up, broken-hearted and pregnant. At a time when she should be recuperating, the call of duty is issued, and Angela must answer. A radical white hate group is committing terrorist attacks on abortion clinics around the country. Only a fool believes what he sees, and Angela is no fool. As Angela becomes immersed in the case, she discovers that it encompasses these elements: the upper echelon of America's political ladder; a death row convict who is a breath away from being executed; the most influential black men in the country; and South African witchcraft folklore. Angela has to solve the case of a lifetime that could cost her life.
I am a huge fan of the book Sympathy For The Devil. I was anxious to read A Prayer For Deliverance to determine if I would become a fan of author Christopher Chambers as well. History is littered with authors who have written awesome debut novels but could not replicate the success in their second or third books. Before I place the full weight of my admiration on the shoulders of an author, said author's shoulders have to be strong enough to carry it. I had the typical sequel questions concerning A Prayer For Deliverance before I started reading it: Could Chambers keep Angela Bivens interesting? Could he continue to write the intricate, complex and interesting plots that made Sympathy For The Devil a memorable read? Could he keep the serial fresh, and entertaining? These questions bring to mind that old saying, "Whatever you did to get 'em, you gotta keep doing IT to keep 'em."
A Prayer For Deliverance is a remarkable novel that provides an excellent mixture of hard-edged reality and witchcraft. I was transported to the middle of an X-Files episode. The novel contains a dynamic, fast-paced story, an eye for details, and the old-fashioned, hard-nosed detecting that is essential to any good suspense tale. Chambers elevated Angela Bivens to the stage occupied by Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and Lucas Davenport.
I'm past the honeymoon, lovey-dovey phase of getting to know Angela. Fortunately, Chambers took Angela's character's development to a deeper, raw level. Not every hero can be successfully subjected to this type of probing and scrutiny. Angela is still human, still dedicated to the FBI, to justice and truth, and still very much flawed. Her brokenness and vulnerability cloak her presence. I did notice that Angela doesn't have a sense of humor. I'm not saying that all suspense/mystery heroes need to throw out one-liners and wise cracks, but humor tends to cut through the darkness that comes from the violence, blood, forensics, and technical jargon, giving me an opportunity to take a small break from a forceful storyline.
I love that Chambers acknowledges Angela's previous adventure in this book. Most authors usually throw in a line or two referring to the hero's former case before proceeding with the new one. I've always suspected the reason for this trend is not to spoil the ending of the past installment for those who hadn't read it. The ambiance and tone of the novel reflected Angela's mood. Chambers allowed Angela to suffer the pain she endured earlier. Angela didn't get over it in a few months. She's still reeling, as I would be under the circumstances.
A Prayer For Deliverance is full of tension and action, but all is not well in Oz. By reusing certain aspects from Sympathy For The Devil, Chambers is running the risk of becoming predictable, which could be the kiss of death for this type of serial. Item one; I learned in the first novel, that Angela has problems becoming close to her female partners. Chambers chooses to partner Angela, again, with another female FBI agent. I could have done without revisiting Angela's partnership and trust issues.
Secondly, although the South African factor of the novel is absorbing, it appears that Chambers swapped it for the South American folklore from the first novel. For Angela to get two cases that center on foreign cultures and folklore, unfolding along similar lines, is a bit too much.
Lastly, Angela needs to find a new group of friends. It is an unwritten requirement that the hero has an assorted menagerie of interesting friends, family and associates. Not only are Angela's friends boring, but once again, a girlfriend betrays Angela's friendship by going after Angela's boyfriend. I don't know what it is about Angela that inspires this type of betrayal from her "friends". Going through this offense for a second time is one time too many. The basic foundation for the Angela Bivens novels is solid and sure with plenty of room for growth. Chambers should be careful about dipping too much in the same wells and seek new watering holes.
A Prayer For Deliverance is an outstanding novel. Chambers has fulfilled and surpassed my expectations. True, there were a few facets of the novel that raised my eyebrow, but I enjoyed the novel and look forward to the next Angela Bivens adventure.