THE STUPIDEST ANGEL
by Christopher Moore
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Pine Cove was the site of Christopher Moore’s first published novel, Practical Demonkeeping, and he returned to the scene of his crime in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. Apparently sea monsters and demons are not enough to inflict on the sleepy town with its one-man police force, now Moore has deigned to present the California backwater with a Christmas miracle courtesy of Raziel, The Stupidest Angel, who previously appeared in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.
Set five years after The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, constable Theo Crowe has married actress-turned-crazy-lady Molly Michon. In return for Theo giving up pot, Molly has agreed to stay on her medications in a plotline which will provide a certain “Gift of the Magi” aspect to the story. Moore revisits other characters and places from Pine Cove, but includes several new characters and a notable appearance by Tucker Case and his speaking fruit bat Roberto from Island of the Sequined Love Nun .
Although a Christmas story, the reader would do well to note the novel’s subtitle and Moore’s warning. Although the story has Christmas and Santa and angels, it is much darker (and more humorous) than the run-of-the-mill Christmas story, even those by Charles Dickens. As Moore points out at the end of chapter one, “In another Christmas story, Dale Pearson, evil developer, self-absorbed woman-hater, and seemingly unredeemable curmudgeon, might be visited in the night by a series of ghosts who, by showing him bleak visions of Christmas future, past, and present , would bring about in him a change to generosity, kindness, and a general warmth toward his fellow man. But this is not that kind of Christmas story, so here, in not too many pages, someone is going to dispatch the miserable cocksucker with a shovel. That’s the spirit of Christmas yet to come in these parts. Ho ho ho.”
As indicated by the previous sentence, Moore’s work can be dark, but at the same time is infused with humor. More importantly, his characters are all human and have their own strengths and weaknesses which work to make most of them likeable (except, perhaps, for Dale Pearson). Even though the reader gets to know them all, the characters themselves are not always cognizant of each other and their own personal agendas have a tendency to interfere with their ability to work together in a manner which is at once frustrating for the reader who knows what all the cards are, but also humorous.
Moore clearly knows his characters and relates to them as individuals, which allows him to write a story which they populate. This means that The Stupidest Angel is not just one joke piled on top of another, but rather a work which has plot, character and setting that uses humor as a means to hook in the reader to appreciate the writing Moore is capable of delivering.
The ending of the novel has a certain dues ex machine quality to it, but given that one of the prime movers throughout the book is an archangel, that is, perhaps, to be expected. Even if the ending is not to a reader’s taste, the journey to that ending is well worth the trip.
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