three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
By: 
Greg Iles
user_rating: 
0

A-TurningAngelSeventeen-year-old Kate Townsend, a high school senior in Natchez, Mississippi, was a golden girl, a tennis star, and valedictorian about to enter Harvard. When she is found raped and murdered, a dark secret emerges: her affair with Drew Elliott, a 40-something doctor, husband, and civic leader who, just before Townsend’s death, confesses he was about to leave his wife for Townsend. Elliott’s best friend Penn Gage (the lawyer in The Quiet Game) decides to defend Elliott in the face of mounting evidence against him. The idealistic Gage will have to fight for his friend’s life—or follow his own instincts.
Scribner. 512 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0743234715

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"What sets Turning Angel head shoulders above similar novels are the well-drawn characters which, even when bordering on cliché, ring so true. … Like The Quiet Game, Turning Angel is at its Peyton Place-style best when revealing the seamy underbelly of small-town life and the ways in which relationships and class struggles unfold in the dark heart of the Deep South." Dorman T. Shindler

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Turning Angel, you see, isn’t just a great thriller; it’s a frank and honest exploration of deep-seated emotions as well as a brilliant depiction of the new world below the Mason-Dixon line." Jon Land

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Iles ramps up an already sexually charged story with enough teen depravity to make parents’ heads spin. … A book’s true test is whether it makes readers eager for more. After Turning Angel, this reader checked out Iles’ Blood Memory, a suspenseful tale of murder, sexual abuse and recovered memories. That leaves eight books to go." Carol Memmott

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Iles dishes out too much violence to be tidily resolved in court; justice must be achieved elsewhere, by more violence, as in fact it is. But the killings in this novel are finally less alarming than its portrait of a generation living lives that most of us can’t comprehend." Patrick Anderson

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"As the story of a Mississippi lawyer with high ideals amid a murky investigation, Turning Angel sounds like a John Grisham story that’s been left to fester in the Southern humidity. This is not a desired effect." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Much more than a thriller, Turning Angel is a portrait of a Southern town blighted by a poor economy, bad schools, drugs, racial tensions, and the contrast between this life and the one of privilege. Iles, who lives in Natchez, convincingly depicts how these tensions play out among high school students, who, as Gage repeatedly learns, are not the innocent babes of his youth. The lurid scenes of pornography, drugs, and sex will attract many readers, but so will Iles’s portrayal of emotions and morality. A two-dimensional villain and somewhat hackneyed plot barely detract from the novel’s powerful depiction of teenagers’ lives today.

Also by the Author

Blood Memory (2005): A serial killer in Mississippi and Louisiana has been targeting middle-aged men, and Forensic odontologist Cat Ferry is called in to examine bite marks on the bodies. She’s also working on a mystery of her own: her bloody footprint from years ago has been uncovered in a room were her father had died of a gunshot wound.