LIGHTS, CAMERA, ANGEL by Mike Ripley

Lights-Camera-Angel-CreateSpace-Cover-F-100Fitzroy Maclean Angel is the driver of a de-licensed taxi who doubles as an unofficial private eye and triples as an occasional musician. Which is to say that he does a bit of this and a bit of that, surviving on his ability to see a little bit further than the end of the next person’s nose. Now married to Amy, a hard-as-nails fashion designer, he gets involved with the making of a new movie at Pinewood Studios when she is asked to work on some of the costumes. He is brought in to ferry the movie’s star, Ross Pirie, to the studio and back when his usual driver has a very weird accident. But soon he is also tasked with dealing with problems arising when some of Pirie’s fans react badly to his decision to make Daybreak, a vampire movie set in contemporary New York but being shot in the UK.

“So you’re designing the costumes for a cowboy-vampire movie being shot in Buckinghamshire?”

The novel begins some way into the narrative, on the last day of 1999, with Angel ferrying movie star Ross Pirie across London in his cab then flashing back to fill in the blanks, a technique Ripley uses successfully throughout. It turns out the actor is a decent bloke, if inevitably a bit conceited (actually I kept waiting for some big secret about the man to be revealed, but Ripley ultimately makes him a pretty heroic chap, which was a nice surprise in itself). When they fail to make their big appointment at the Dome with the Queen due to bad traffic, they instead crash a party at Angel’s old gaff, where the star acquits himself well (people think he’s a look-a-like). Amy is unimpressed, as usual – in fact, she is incredibly hostile. What does Angel see in her, apart from her good looks and millions in the bank? Actually, Angel gets kicked around by most of the women in the book, so to each to their own, I guess …

“This is my partner Fitzroy Maclean Angel,” she said maliciously. “But he answers to the name Roy – or just Angel. Actually, he answers to the sound of a bottle opening.”

Ripley-Lights_Angel-pbPirie has his usual entourage, including a camp hairdresser, who turns out not to be gay, and a very butch personal trainer, who is very closeted indeed. The scariest person on the crew though is probably Ross’ personal assistant Lin, and it’s when she stops turning up for work that Angel starts investigating in earnest (or his laid back equivalent). His mission is to discover what is behind a variety of small but escalating problems: why did Ross’ driver plough his car into a brick wall at the Studios when he wasn’t even supposed to be there? Who is Lin’s exceptionally violent boyfriend? Why are two coppers – calling themselves Regan and Carter – passing themselves off as insurance men? And who is leaking secret production info to a fan site?

“Scoring points off actors really was low-hanging fruit”

I love both movies and crime fiction (obviously), so I was immediately drawn to this, the tenth entry in Mike Ripley’s series of comic mysteries, now reprinted by those very nice people at Telos (who provided this review copy and which Mike very kindly signed). There are plenty of in-jokes (Angel is a movie buff, trading quotes with all and sundry) but the plot is ever-busy and never left behind for long. Angel is also very likeable (for a layabout who can’t even tame his scary pet cat Springsteen) – hell, he even likes to stay right to the end of the credits for a movie, what a guy! I’m certainly glad that the series didn’t end as planned with That Angel Look (which I previously reviewed here) as spending a few hundred pages with Angel makes for great entertainment as we head to the firework-filled climax.

“Making a film is like sex,” she said calmly. “Lots of talk beforehand, numerous lunches, mountains of money involved and promises of great things afterwards, but the actual thing gets done in three minute bursts.”

The Fitzroy Maclean Angel series

  1. Just Another Angel (1988)
  2. Angel Touch (1989)
  3. Angel Hunt (1990)Ripley_That_Angel_Look
  4. Angels in Arms (1991)
  5. Angel City (1994)
  6. Angel Confidential (1995)
  7. Family Of Angels (1996)
  8. That Angel Look (1997) – reviewed here
  9. Bootlegged Angel (1999)
  10. Lights, Camera, Angel (2001)
  11. Angel Underground (2002)
  12. Angel on the Inside (2003)
  13. Angel In The House (2005)
  14. Angel’s Share (2006)
  15. Angels Unaware (2008)

This edition comes with a new intro from the author and the short story, ‘Angel Eyes.’ Thanks for the book Mike, and here at Fedora we hope very soon to be reviewing the next one in the series, Angel Undergound (a title with a touch of a rather different Ripley). Telos is currently reprinting the series and for further details, visit: www.telos.co.uk/ –  and don’t forget to read the author’s typically ribald monthly crime fiction column, Mike Ripley’s Getting Away with Murder over at the market-leading e-zine, Shots!


***** (3.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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28 Responses to LIGHTS, CAMERA, ANGEL by Mike Ripley

  1. Santosh Iyer says:

    Comic mystery series ? Seems interesting. I shall try out one.

  2. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have since obtained Angel Hunt and will be reading it soon.

  3. Colin says:

    New to me. Like yourself, movies and mysteries are my thing, and a bit of comedy never hurts. I’ll keep an eye out for this.

  4. Sergio – Sounds like a fun and entertaining read. And I like it that the ‘stock’ characters really aren’t as ‘stock’ as they seem. May just have to take a look at this series. Thanks for sharing!

  5. tracybham says:

    I have been wanting to read this series, Sergio, so was glad to see this review. This particular book does appeal because of the setting. Unfortunately I like to start at the beginning so cannot decide if I will just give up on that and start wherever, or start with the first one. I am very happy they are being reprinted, but going that route could be expensive. Lots to think about.

    • Glad I managed to wet your appetite at least TracyK! The order doesn’t make much of a difference and you could just start with a chap second-hand copy and see how that goes? Enjoy 🙂

      • tracybham says:

        Thanks for the advice, Sergio. I will probably go that route. Although I did check out a couple of the reprints at Amazon, and saw that they have lovely introductions (like the one you mention here). I love comments by the author, when they are entertaining. I have multiple copies of some Len Deighton books because of the intros.

        • Ripley is great company in person and his intros are very amusing, just like his books (I also thought his recent Campion book a very well-realised example of the often dismaying trend in ‘continuation’ literature). You can read the intro to his first book in the series, Just Another Angel, online for free here or get the whole book second hand through Amazon for about $3.

          • tracybham says:

            Thanks, Sergio. I have now read that intro and it is very entertaining (although I did trail off when he started talking about the ending). One way or the other I will get a copy and probably start with that first one.

          • Really hope you enjoy it TracyK – and I promise, Riipley gives nothign away of importance – he’s never do anything quite so daft, no matter how pickled 🙂

  6. I’m another one who hadn’t come across this series, but I like the idea very much and will have to try one.

  7. I also (probably obviously) like crime fiction and film, but I’m always so reluctant to read a middle book from a series. How is this as a stand-alone?

    • Hiya Kelly – there are only a couple of minor contonuity references (references to an old girlfriend etc) – it’s the equivalent of starting the Bond series with Goldfinger and not Dr No shall we say (I use Bond because, as we discover in the new intro, the book was inspired by the author meeting Pierce Brosnan on the set of The World is Not Enough) – go for it!

  8. Don’t know much about this, Sergio, but thanks as ever for the review and highlighting the Fitzroy Maclean Angel series. Angel sounds like quite the character.

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