Luz has had a rough life in Mexico. Taken as property by one outrageous thug and traded to another, El Principe. She’s been beaten, imprisoned, and has lived her life drugged and numb to help her forget who she is, what she is, and the things she’s lost. While she’s lost so much, nothing has hurt her worse then knowing she has a daughter somewhere in the United States. It’s this fact that helps her sober up and form a plan to escape her imprisonment and reunite with her daughter. She never knew it would lead to a .45, two dead bodies and a bag full of cash.
Right off the bat I was hooked on Richard Lange’s latest novel “Angel Baby”. Luz is instantly wrapped up in suspense as we watch her deeds unfold in chaos. Then we get a glimpse of her owner, a vicious Mexican drug lord who has every cop in his pocket, thousands of eyes on the street, and enough power to stretch his arms across the border into the states if necessary to get back what’s his.
As the novel progresses we meet the other players in this fantastic tale. A burnt out gringo named Malone who gets paid to help those looking for a better life across the border, as long as their willing to pay. Malone is living day to day, drunk out of his mind when sobriety isn’t needed for a job. The liquor is his only escape from a dark past that haunts him and makes him pray for death when he’s dry.
Jeronimo is a former gang banger from Los Angeles that moved to Mexico to get away from trouble. He landed a job with Luz’s owner as an enforcer and spent his days performing acts he now finds despicable now that he’s settled down and has a family. He only has a couple of years left on his sentence before he can get back to them, but it’s not long before his old boss has him sprung from prison to go after Luz. The stakes are high and El Principe won’t take no for an answer. Jeronimo knows he has no other choice but to track Luz down, be it Mexico or the states.
Finally we wrap up the cast with Thacker, a rouge border agent that’s lost it all and has found a relatively cushy job scaring border crossers out of their money or coming to other terms if they have none. He’s a man who can be bought and whose goodwill has dried up and died inside of him.
Every new character that pops up in the novel is simply shrouded with this idea that they can be redeemable, and it’s here where you get caught up in the story. Weather it’s El Principe showing his true colors when it comes to Luz, Malone on the verge of finding a reason to be alive, Jeronimo edging the borders of what might very well be his true self, or Thacker’s past, which makes him a former good guy, just having fallen on tough times.
You want some of these characters to fight against their nature, be either good, or become the evil their characters keep flirting with. You have the scenario’s in which we find all of our characters and the anxiety those cause when proceeding through the novel. You want things to go well, but you also feel this guilty tinge that you want them to get by, but just barely.
Lange delivers the novel with a very smooth masterstroke that sets up the world of Angel Baby the way you want a bleak cold world. No punches are pulled for the sake of brevity, our villains are disgusting, despicable, and monstrous, but you just have to come to the conclusion as to who is a monster and who is not. It could be a main character or it could be a fleshed out background character that some may or may not put stock into.
In the end it’s simply a, let me use this cliché, rollercoaster ride. The novel never lets up, giving you something to hope for, someone to root for, and all the violence you can handle. While not ultraviolet, it’s certainly no young adult novel. Well worth checking out.