Crucifying angels in the City of Sin

Filed in Crime-Mystery, Independent, Thriller by on September 24, 2013 0 Comments

Crucifying Angel

It’s hot enough to kill. Las Vegas’ best homicide team has just attended its fifth cult-inspired murder of the night. Are the killings connected? Well it is Las Vegas… and anything can change with another roll of the dice.

This is the premise behind P.I Barrington’s futuristic crime thriller Crucifying Angel, a sharp tale of ‘revenge, lust and broken dreams’. (Heh, that’s also a great description of my last attempt at scoring with the alien chick in Mass Effect, but I digress…)

Crucifying Angel is a smorgasbord of genres, making it quite tricky to categorise. However the difficulty in isolating the book’s essence is one of the aspects of Barrington’s work that I really enjoyed. For example, the book’s two protagonists fight their mutual lust, but it’s not a romance. Angel is a crime novel set in the future but it’s not detective noir a la Blade Runner. There’s lots of violence and gore, but it’s no Friday the 13th.

Crucifying Angel is a unique mix of the world we know and the world we fear may come to pass. Homicide detectives Payce Halligan and her new partner Gavin McAllister are thrust into the quagmire of a dystopian world that holds little regard for the law. They face a frightening killer, whose signature murder scenes parody the qualities of religion and judgement – in a city built on ignoring them altogether.

And if that isn’t enough, the heat that sizzles between Halligan and McAllister threatens to burn their tenuous partnership. (Think Hunter meets Escape from New York. Ooooh, how I loved Hunter).

“He got a little too close to some kind of crime ring or something and they retaliated by killing his wife and son”

“What?” It was a whisper.

“It’s true. I checked. They sent his wife back in a couple of bags. They never bothered to send his son.” (page 36)

On the face of it Crucifying Angel is a crime novel with a standard-model premise and protagonist. However dig a little deeper and you quickly realise that theres a good deal of sophisticated social commentary; the real crime is the city of Las Vegas itself. Barrington rarely misses an opportunity to describe in vivid, lovely and lascivious detail the city’s dry mouldering desert carcass and rotting corrupt bones.

“Tattered plastic sheets fluttered in the parched breeze, hanging forgotten from iron girders that stood on the Vegas strip; skeletons of casinos that had died in birth, victims of the decaying economy and equally decaying civilisation. Silently over them, giant cranes stood still and stiff with the rigor mortis of rust.” (page 3)

One could almost suspect the author of harbouring a grudge against a city which has no compunction against taking you to the cleaners, stealing the shirt off your back and then inviting you to come and do it all again next weekend.

Society – bad for your health

In a similar vein, the brutal murders which are under investigation soon take a back seat to the carnage wreaked on the city’s dead soul-less heart, and the widespread and devastating environmental damage inflicted on a climate ruined by human inaction. So who does Barrington consider the real criminal? It would be easy to think that she treats society on the whole with less compassion than she does a serial killer; those uncaring citizens are the real suspects, who have allowed society to degenerate to a point where apathy is valued more than avarice.

Shakespeare indulged in social commentary when he wrote “First, get rid of all the lawyers*”. Barrington does something similar to emphasise the sad state of the world of 2032 by instead eliminating coroners. Why? While it seems society is beyond saving, there is still some hope for the environment.

“I’m the only one left in the department. Everyone else went into environmental health” (Las Vegas’ last coroner, page 4).

While Crucifying Angel is ostensibly a crime novel, to me it really seems to focus on the topics of death and sin. For a start, the obvious clue is the setting; Las Vegas IS the City of Sin… but Barrington has turned the city into a literal hell. Or does she condemn its residents to merely marking time until they die and are truly damned?

“The next tableau of death also sat eight stories up in another iron skeleton that was once a casino in utero.” (page 5)

The damage to the environment and the ozone layer (blamed largely on NASA’s Space Shuttle program, no less) has left people prisoners in their own homes unless they wear extensive protective gear. In 2032 the sun will literally burn you to the bone.

Barrington highlights the ‘Las Vegas is hell’ angle by contrasting it with her almost idyllic descriptions of the headquarters for the religious ‘New Creation’ sect (virtually the only pleasant setting in the whole book). However even this ‘Garden of Eden’ is lent a sinister air by the secretive and threatening nature of the sect itself; nothing is what it seems in the future.

“Payce and Gavin strolled about the interior of the compound which resembled a luxury resort more than a religious community. There was an enormous pool, seven hot tubs marked ‘Mineral Springs’ and enough greenery planted to cause the place to steam like a hothouse.” (page 19)

Crucifying AngelThe reader is lead to the conclusion that religion is having the last laugh – that you can have your cake and eat it too. The religions of the future are deliberately flaunting the worst aspects of Vegas’ credo of excess (and what does it really matter, as the world is all going to hell anyway…)

I liked Barrington’s vision of a dysfunctional future – she has put some serious creative thought into her world building, with some nifty and imaginative technological advances. For example, the future boasts disposable ‘Temporal Phase suits’ which allow people to temporarily survive the intense levels of solar radiation which bake the planet, ‘Structure Destabiliser’ guns which makes short work of, well, structures. You can even buy cybernetically-enhanced snakes. However I did feel that at times these futurist MacGuffins were sometimes thrown in for the sake of it, just to make absolutely sure that we know that we’re ‘in the future’.

Great characterisation

And to be fair, there are a couple of plot points which prompt a pause for thought. For example, even though Halligan, the police department’s best detective, feels an instant physical attraction for her new and mysterious British partner from the first second she sees him, she apparently doesn’t feel the need to find out anything about him until at least several chapters later (she’s a detective, remember).

However these are only trivial observations, as Crucifying Angel features some great characterisation. You really get to know Halligan and McAllister, as their relationship develops a momentum of its own. Given that my idea of a romantic evening is curling up in front of a nice warm television, I’m going to refrain from commenting on the romantic subplot, but I like the fact that the pair build some dramatic tension (and resist the Moonlighting effect) by not falling immediately into each other’s arms. Without giving away any spoilers, both had suffered loss and were very cautious about forming new attachments. It added a comforting ring of authenticity.

“He was dark and rarely smiled and then only sardonically and with sarcasm. She knew that she could use that as a defense against getting too close if things came to that. Yet his eyes sucked at her like magnets, pulling her to a lace she did not want to go.” (page 39)

All in all I really enjoyed P.I. Barrington’s Crucifying Angel – it’s a good read which doesn’t get bogged down. It has a solid premise, and the plot will keep you hooked right until the (cliff hanger) ending. It will be interesting to see where the series goes in Book 2 of the ‘Future Imperfect’ series.

*Note: The author supplied me with a hardcopy edition of Crucifying Angels for review purposes.

Crucifying Angel

Crucifying Angel

Genres: Crime - Mystery, Thriller
ISBN: 9781612529417

It’s hot enough to kill. Las Vegas’ best homicide team has just attended its fifth cult-inspired murder of the night. Are the killings connected? Well it is Las Vegas… and anything can change with another roll of the dice.

Buy from Amazon Kindle
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About the Book

A serial killer with an unholy mission is unleashed on deteriorating sin city Las Vegas and LVPD Homicide Detectives Payce Halligan and her new partner, British ex-Deputy Chief Inspector begin a deadly cat and mouse game as each must deal with their own traumatic past and their evolving attraction.

(Overview from Amazon)


Please read Deadline Zombie’s review of Crucifying Angel!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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About the Author ()

Nick Buchan is currently writing his first novel ‘Leopard Tree’, available 2015. “A burnt-out police detective becomes embroiled in a child murder investigation while on African safari. Will this case send Detective Duffy over the edge?” Follow ‘Leopard Tree’ online at or

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