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I have been a mystery fan for a very long time. Back in the '80s and '90s, I kept a list of all the books I wanted to read and would go to used bookstores and buy a bagful at a time. I always had my list with me because otherwise I had trouble remembering what I'd read and what I hadn't. Then I got caught up in an on-line computer game (which is another story) and stopped reading so much for about ten years. When I decided to start again a few years ago, I had the delicious task of checking out every author I loved and seeing what books they had written in the intervening ten years. Yes, I updated my list again too.

The list is currently running about eight pages and counting, as I add authors I find out about here and elsewhere. Instead of spending time looking through books at the used bookstore, I've been using the public library. I found out I could order a book online and have it delivered to the branch nearest my house. Not only that, but I further discovered that if my library (the San Francisco Public Library) didn't have it, I could request it from another library through their interlibrary loan arrangements.

That is exactly what I did to get a copy of Desolate Angel by Chaz McGee (Katy Munger). I don't remember who suggested Katy Munger as an author. I found the Chaz McGee listings when I checked to see what books she had written, since I prefer to read a series in order. I ordered the first of the series by Chaz McGee and received a paperback copy of this book from the Alameda County Public Library. The only thing that set me back was the little note on the cover that said the lost book charge was $115. Now that's scary.

Follow me below the Koscurlicue to find out what I thought of Desolate Angel.

Usually I already have a little idea of the detective in a series, whether it's a male or female, in a special locale, or with a particular quirk. In this case, I had no idea what to expect when I started to read this book. I prefer not to look at the cover to find out what the book is about, but rather to see it transpire as I read. This is the quote that appears before the book starts:

They say some men die and go to Heaven,
     while others are doomed to Hell.
But for me, death was an awful lot like life:
     I went absolutely nowhere.        

After a very short prologue, Chapter 1 begins:

I never recognized my wife's beauty when I was alive...I had to die before I saw it.
Some books I read in many small pieces, grabbing a few pages here and a few pages there, watching the story build. Others are the kind of page turners that keep me up at night. This was one of those, and when I finally went to bed at 5 AM, I decided I'd write a diary about it. (At least I had the sense not to write the diary at 5 AM though!)

The premise is that Kevin Fahey, previously known as a lazy cop, a sort of drunk, someone who was lost in an alcoholic fog a lot of the time, has been shot and killed in the line of duty. His partner, who is just as lazy and drunk as he was, or perhaps worse, is present at the scene, but survives. Kevin doesn't remember what happened the day he died.

As the story unfolds, we find that he also doesn't know why he has been wandering around the earth even though he is dead. He can see and hear everything that goes on, but most people can't see him. There are only a very few who can. He sometimes also sees other people who have died and are still lingering on earth. At first he doesn't understand why, but later he believes it is because there is unfinished business to take care of. He spends some time watching his family, and he has a lot of opportunities to reflect. He is a much more thoughtful and understanding person than he was when he was alive. He finds his former partner's new partner, Maggie, and he follows her around as she works on her newest case.

The case is related to one of the cases that he and his partner had successfully closed, but as the story proceeds, it becomes clear that the wrong person was sent to prison because of their sloppy and lazy investigation. He finds that his detective skills, which had disappeared in the alcoholic fog he was living in, have returned now that he is dead. He does what he can to help the new partner even though she can't see him and doesn't know he's there.

I don't want to give away any more of the plot, but I will say I had a lot of fun reading this one and I will definitely order the next. I think there are four in the series so far. There were some parts of the story that were a little too pat; some things that would probably irk some readers, but I ignored them because I was interested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. I don't ask for a whole lot in my mysteries--I just want to be transported into the story. It's not the most excellent writing, but I appreciated it and it was exactly what I wanted at the time.

So why did I like it? I liked the character, and how he comes to terms with what he was and what he is. He is happier dead than he was alive, and the story shows how his understanding of people grows. I enjoyed learning with him about what he could and could not do, and his realizations. He spends a lot of time thinking about the time he wasted when he was alive, and how he didn't really understand what kind of person he had turned into. He vows to help solve the crime that Maggie is working on, to find the murderer and give peace to the victim who he can see is in the same state as he is. Although he can't speak to Maggie directly, there are some things he is able to do to help lead in the right direction. It's a story of redemption.

There were many cases that he and his partner had where their laziness and inefficiencies led to miscarriages of justice. He didn't realize it or care at the time, but now he can see it. He vows to do what he can to right whatever wrongs were made. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next in the series.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
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Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views Brecht, bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
Thu (third each month) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 4:00 PM Daily Kos Political Book Club Freshly Squeezed Cynic
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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