Better Angel


Fiction - Crime
234 Pages
Reviewed on 11/21/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Better Angel by Michael Green is a gentle crime mystery heavy on character, community, and familial love. Finn Duffy is a small-time suburban lawyer working the local streets of the historic Sydney inner-suburb of Newtown. Finn, it seems, has limited aspirations for greatness and plods along daily on his diet of petty criminal representation and legal advice. His friends and mother wish Finn would find some direction and purpose in life, but instigating some inspiration seems impossible. Sana, his long-time best friend, is desperate to take their relationship much further than friendship, but Finn seems oblivious to her attempts at romance. When a new suspect property developer moves into the neighborhood, Finn sees the potential for much needed legal work, but once Mallard shows signs of trying to mess with the historical heritage of the district and Finn’s family and friends band together to thwart the development, Finn is caught in the middle and has to choose a path that will be right not only for him, but also for his family, friends, and his beloved Newtown community.

Better Angel is a soft yet deeply satisfying read. Michael Green establishes characters and relationships instantly familiar to all readers who have lived in any tight-knit community. The characters are overdrawn for a purpose, and it works beautifully to draw out the essential conflict that is central to the story. The local bag-lady is a case in point, and most people will instantly recognize someone in their community that resembles Ruby. I loved the different ethnic, cultural and religious mix that made up the community of Newtown. It gave the book a truly authentic feel and made it representative of most small neighborhood communities the world over. Finn was a fascinating character and easily recognizable as that first-generational professional coming from a working-class background and still caught between the two cultures; proud and defensive of his heritage and yet feeling the need to join the new world of the “movers and shakers” in which he was now expected to participate. The writing is easy-paced and laid-back as it reflects the lifestyle of the lead character and is extremely easy to read in a single sitting, as I did. In its simplicity and strong community message, this book resonated deeply with me, and I can highly recommend it.

Pikasho Deka

Better Angel by Michael Green is a crime drama novel that follows the lives of the various inhabitants of Newtown, Australia. Finn Duffy, a solicitor, defends petty criminals before a court of law and has a lackluster attitude toward life. When George Mallard, a nefarious businessman, hires his services to procure real estate in the town, Finn accepts his offer, disregarding the advice of his mother and his close friends. After negotiating further with his client, Finn discerns that Mallard wants to renovate the Cambridge Hall and the local park into private real estate. Feeling suspicious of Mallard's reassurances, Finn finds himself torn between serving his client and supporting the people of his hometown as they stand together to defeat Mallard.

Author Michael Green uses multiple POV characters to showcase the varying personalities and factions involved in the narrative. The plot is paced deliberately slowly, and the author takes time to integrate the reader into the story. The cast is quite large as the personal lives of the different inhabitants of Newtown are explored with Mallard's plot thread running in the background. The characters are well-realized, and I found myself actively rooting for them in their fight to conserve their heritage. Finn, Ruby, Sana, Bruno, and Max were my personal favorites of the bunch. I was particularly invested in Finn's, Bruno's, and Max's storylines. The dialogue is realistic, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wit and humor spread throughout the book. If you love slice-of-life stories set in small towns, Better Angel is the book for you.

Steven Robson

Better Angel by Michael Green compellingly absorbs the reader into the cosmopolitan folds of Newtown society, a thriving inner-city suburb of Sydney. Circulating within this rich environment are stories to amaze, places of history priceless beyond measure, individuals and families just as compelling, and plans for futures unfathomable to present minds. Finneas Duffy (Finn) is one of these residents, and his three-room office is ideally situated across the street from Newtown Court. In this place, Finn plies his trade regularly as a local solicitor. When a developer named George Mallard walks into Finn’s life with the promise of bounty unimaginable, a whole chain of events is triggered that will ultimately change the course of his life. Finn will be forced to deal with a world that is evolving at an ever-increasing pace and look hard at his own life and how he wants to spend the remaining time of this most precious gift of all.

Michael Green has deftly woven Better Angel into a palpable experience of life in the inner suburbs of a major Australian city; I speak from first-hand knowledge as I used to live not far from Newtown. The portrayal of the characters, how they spend their time, and their interactions are quite accurate. I also loved the way the story encompasses cultural elements, including a nice touch of humor and just the right amount of history. The relationships developed were very real, with Jessie being what a typical mum would be, and Louisa being what a typical secretary would be. As far as Sana is concerned, I can fully empathize with her patient expectations. This is a genuinely authentic taste of what life is like. If you appreciate easy-to-read drama with all the right ingredients, Better Angel is for you.