REVIEW: Falling Angel by William HjortsbergPosted: June 23, 2014
If a mystery gets mixed with the occult or the supernatural, the result is often disastrous for the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. Falling Angel is an exception to the rule.
Struggling private investigator Harry Angel is hired by a foreign client, Louis Cyphre, to find Johnny Favorite, a crooner from before the war. Favorite is supposed to stay at a private hospital in upstate New York, where he is treated for ‘shell shock’ sustained in the war, but when Cyphre tries to visit him he gets the runaround.
Angel visits the private hospital, only to learn that Favorite was transferred to the VA hospital in Albany in 1945. The transfer is bogus, but the person responsible turns up dead, so Angel has to dig in Favorite’s past in order to track him down.
Favorite used to hang out with an eclectic crowd—fortune tellers, musicians, voodoo priestesses and occultists—and Angel’s search takes him from the heights of the Upper West Side to the depths of Harlem.
The missing person case turns sour when it looks like Favorite is desperately trying not to be found; desperate enough to kill anyone who might know where to find him.
Angel follows, descending deeper and deeper into Favorite’s sordid past, only to end up knee-deep in corpses and to find his own past connected to Favorite’s in the most unusual fashion.
Not only are all the characters in this mystery finely drawn, the dialogue is quirky and surprising and the Faustian ending brings the mystery to a satisfying conclusion.
This novel was also filmed as Angel Heart, with Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel and Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre.