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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.