Angela Cray is a broke, out-of-work 20-something living with her mother. She dropped out of nursing school, and her last job nearly ended with her going to jail, and now she’s starting to wonder if she’ll ever hold down a job. Luckily, a new neighbor might have some work for her. It starts out as a fairly straightforward case: a woman’s fiancee has run off with a pair of Lady Gaga lookalikes, and she wants Angela to track him down. Angela, for her part, doesn’t think there’s likely much to this case, but she soon discovers how wrong she is. She uncovers a vast conspiracy involving traffic cameras and celebrity impersonators, and along the way, finally finds a career that suits her.
Dara Carr’s ANGELA CRAY GETS REAL is a great counter-example to anyone who might think everything has been done in the world of detective novels. The titular character is at once delightfully witty and also at times also incredibly clumsy, as she stumbles her way to becoming a full-fledged PI. She is not particularly observant like Sherlock Holmes, not really very good at lying or manipulating events like a traditional noir detective either; she’s just very determined not to fail at her new job.
Where ANGELA CRAY GETS REAL’s real strength lies is (as in so many mysteries) in the narration. Angela Cray is, in a word, delightful. “If I let nature take its course, first thing in the morning for me would mean around eleven. Unfortunately, a defining characteristic of adult life, even as a starter adult, is that nature must not be allowed to take her course.” “My thirties? Excuse me? That is a land far, far away. That place, with its decay and fat and metabolic inefficiency, is three years off.” Whether she’s fretting about germs, making friends with her new boss’s dog, raving ecstatically about driving a Kia Soul, or describing her “power cocoon” (her nickname for her comforter blanket), Angela Cray is a beautifully realized and hilarious character.
Funny, entertaining and suspenseful as it may be, it does have to be said that the final resolution to the mystery (or mysteries) is not quite as exciting as the book seems to have been promising. The climax is sort of perfunctory, and its resolution is a bit counter-intuitive. But the humor more or less makes up for this: it’s hard to stay mad at Angela Cray, after all.
Humor and suspense reach a near-perfect balance in ANGELA CRAY GETS REAL, with maybe a little more of the former than the latter. Funny, clever and occasionally even suspenseful, this book is hard to put down.
ANGELA CRAY GETS REAL is gleefully sardonic and wonderfully convoluted. As hilarious a mystery novel as you are likely to find anywhere.
~Chaz Baker for IndieReader