Stone Angels

Fiction - Thriller - General
340 Pages
Reviewed on 07/22/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Award-winning author Michael Hartigan has explored and written about unique people, places and traditions around the world. His debut novel, Stone Angels, was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Writer Award and published last fall. This gritty, fast-paced thriller drops readers into the mind of a young man at war with a guilty conscience, and his road to confession. Hartigan is also an accomplished travel writer and journalist featured in numerous national and regional publications.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Stone Angels is a literary fiction thriller written by Michael Hartigan. They were seniors now, and it was their last spring break. The four friends were on their way back north to school in Rhode Island after a hedonistic week of sun-drenched days and drunken nights in Key West. They had gone as far away as they possibly could from school and the capricious weather patterns of their odd little corner of New England. Now, it was time to return. They were all a bit wasted and worn; three of them dozing in the Explorer and sleeping off the excesses of the night before. Only Shaw, the driver, was still awake and watching the fuel gauge's needle dipping lower and lower. When he finally saw an exit sign prominently indicating a fuel station, he headed off the highway and started looking for the lights that would mean he had found it. He had no such luck, however, only the continued darkness of a back country road in Northern Florida. The fuel warning noise was dinging more and more furiously, echoing his own near-panic at being stranded out in the middle of nowhere, until suddenly the small, barely lit station appeared, waiting for them at the bottom of the hill. They were in a different world out here, and Shaw, more so than any of his friends, found himself confronting the divide between his past and an unknown and daunting future. There were sins to account for and debts to pay, but he was prepared to do what was necessary to be granted redemption.

Michael Hartigan's literary fiction thriller, Stone Angels, is a brooding and introspective coming of age story, narrated by college senior, Augustine Shaw, who, after reading The Paradoxical Commandments printed on a bright red piece of paper and hanging on the wall of that North Florida gas station, resolves to confess what he's done and get on with atoning for those crimes. Hartigan's story is richly nuanced, and I found myself completely caught up in Shaw's tale. I loved sharing vicariously in the new-found freedom of the young roommates, who live blissfully free of parental control in that first year of college. I understood Shaw's confusion and increasing frustration with Duncan, a high school acquaintance who had been determined to share the college life with Shaw, but then did all he could to make Shaw’s life a misery. Stone Angels is a complex and many-layered work that alternates the joy of youth with the devastating effects of guilt and regret. Hartigan's characters are vividly portrayed, and the dramatic moments in the story are unforgettable. This powerful and compelling debut novel is most highly recommended.

Joel R. Dennstedt

As ultimately becomes apparent, Stone Angels by Michael Hartigan not only begins with a passage in the night, a surreal passage by a group of college student friends – two guys and two girls – involving an unplanned stop at a rural gas station, but the scene becomes a kind of metaphor for the entire story. This introductory chapter inclines the reader to expect one of those teen horror scenarios with a twisted, demonic killer. Yet the chapter serves a better purpose by taking you deep into the psychological reality of the main character, who narrates you through a history of events meant to explain his disturbing if intriguing current state of near collapse, and why he himself just might be that psychotic killer. The book moves among artful counterpoints of character revelations, creating an entourage and plot line cleverly constructed of group friendships well-defined by collegiate activities and other high jinks, comprised of some who have grown up together, and others formed in high school. This all makes for a complex set of relationships that in turn makes this a deeply engrossing story.

Michael Hartigan in Stone Angels pulls the reader in from the start. He continues to contrast the surreal and the mundane while piecing together his psychological puzzle – a highly effective technique for revealing the emotional depth behind some really strange associations - and he deftly keeps you guessing at what the final diagnosis is to be. The symbolic representation most cogent to his purpose is the good and evil contrast between Shaw, the narrator, and his nemesis, Duncan, although the counterpoint is nuanced and authentic, with plenty of psychological explanation for a believable foundation. Important to a proper appreciation of this well-written book is the reality of what has really taken place prior to that introductory nighttime passage. Finding out is the genuine pleasure of reading Mr. Hartigan’s book.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Stone Angels by Michael Hartigan is a gripping thriller and an award-winning story. Augustine Shaw didn’t have the happiest of times during college and he has to live with everything he did, including killing two friends. He heads off on a break up to Key West, a place where he can try to forget about everything through sun, alcohol and sex, but the relief isn’t going to last long. On the way home, he relives everything that shaped his life and ended the lives of other people. He has to make a decision – does he bury everything once and for all, or does he confess and take the consequences?

Stone Angels by Michel Hartigan is a thriller of epic proportions, a real edge of your seat read. The way Mr. Hartigan writes allows the reader to get to know Shaw very well; very descriptive writing but straight to the point. The main protagonist goes through quite a time of things and you almost feel as though you are living every minute of it with him, walking beside him with each step. The plot is well thought out and entertaining, and there is more than just a simple story here. There are a number of real-life experiences dealt with throughout the plot, including guilt and jealousy. The story is a mixture of crime, humor and sex and, yes, in parts you will laugh, not something you expect in a tough thriller. This is an excellent first novel and it will really put Mr. Hartigan on the map. I hope there will be more like this in the future.