Fitzroy 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.”
Pirie 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
- Just Another Angel (1988)
- Angel Touch (1989)
- Angel Hunt (1990)
- Angels in Arms (1991)
- Angel City (1994)
- Angel Confidential (1995)
- Family Of Angels (1996)
- That Angel Look (1997) – reviewed here
- Bootlegged Angel (1999)
- Lights, Camera, Angel (2001)
- Angel Underground (2002)
- Angel on the Inside (2003)
- Angel In The House (2005)
- Angel’s Share (2006)
- 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!