Hey! Anyone interested in a novel that boasts not only only one of the best death scenes in recent memory, but also one of the most tenderly emotion suicides that you are ever likely to read? Yep, I thought so.
Not all angels are sane.
Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him.
Angel Board starts off with a bang! The story hits with a series of quick jabs to quickly disorient you and then POW!, two devastating uppercuts and you’re almost out for the count…..almost. The beginning of Angel Board finds the reader in David Barker’s bathroom as he gently and methodically attempts to take his own life. Rufty describes the scene with such sympathy that your heart aches as David opens his veins and his life slowly slips away. Rufty handles the intimate act of suicide with subtle prose as he draws the reader into David’s world of pain. I knew from the get-go that I was in the hands of a truly talented author.
The story then lulls a bit before unleashing one of the most memorable death scenes I’ve read in quite some time. The descriptive writing was nothing short of superb. I cringed as a man was systematically reduced to a pile of loose tendons and barely recognizable extremities. Again, Rufty’s prose reflected the situation at hand as he took on a more aggressive tone and his sentences seemed to come in quick bursts. This is one of the rare novels where the author can slightly alter their style to reflect the action unfolding on the page. At this point in the story, I was all in! Rufty had me hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, once I was drawn in nothing really happened.
Rufty can construct some truly genuine and believable dialogue and characters which really jump off the page but, even they couldn’t save a story that felt about 100 pages too long. The novel simply lost the momentum it had built over the first third. We tag along as those closest to David try to break him away from a malicious angel as the story simply becomes too over-the-top to truly be taken seriously. This is not to say that the story is without merit. There is some stark sexuality that will redden the cheeks of even the most hardened genre vet. I also have to note that Rufty threw the word “rump” into the mix which will always score him big points in my book. He certainly channeled the spirit of Laymon in some of these sexually charged scenes and it brought a smile to my face. I guess at the end of the day, this is the contradiction that is Angel Board.
There are moments of absolute brilliance found in Rufty’s debut novel- the heart-wrenching suicide attempt, the ultra violent death-by-cardboard bailer, the titillating sexuality- but ultimately the story gets bogged down from the disjointed pacing. Rufty gets your pulse racing but then spends two chapters describing a simple scene which simply brings the momentum to an unfortunate halt. With that said, Rufty has a tremendous amount of talent and many of the pitfalls that he experienced with Angel Board are the same found with many debut novels. Rufty has the talent to learn from his mistakes and get right back up and deliver a masterpiece in his next offering. I, for one, am giddy with excitement at that thought.