"In the Company of Angels" by Thomas E. Kennedy

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Place yourself confidently in Thomas E. Kennedy’s hands and allow yourself to be held in thrall by “In the Company of Angels.” Follow each character’s journey from his or her demons – be they torture, abuse, confusion, resentment or rage – to sweet redemption. The author knits these dramatis personae tightly together in their inner progress, and through a simple, character-driven plot, makes each journey interdependent. Mr. Kennedy’s treatment – oblique when it needs to be but otherwise quite straightforward – supports the many issues tastefully and beautifully. Oh, where to start in praising this work?

In the first of Mr. Kennedy’s Copenhagen Quartet (the second book, “Falling Sideways,” is due this year) we meet Bernardo (known as Nardo), a victim of a repressive South American regime who has immigrated to Denmark. Dr. Kristensen tries to walk him away from his horrific life and into the light of the world. Beautiful, full-hearted Michela battles the effects of her frightening past, as her current boorish boyfriend threatens to perpetuate them. Each narrative is gripping in its own right; get ready for a grand reward when they merge.

Mr. Kennedy piques my speculation by narrating the entire book in the third person, with the exception of those passages devoted to Dr. Kristensen. Those he renders in the first person, possibly casting the rest of the novel as events the doctor witnesses. He lets Nardo’s problems get to him a bit and begins to get burned out on life. He comes close to shunting Nardo off to a lower-level professional because he thinks they – doctor and patient – are wasting time and money. Are we to join Kristensen in these beliefs? Are we to accept them as the author’s viewpoint? Clear answers to these questions are by no means necessary to appreciating this book. This piece has an atmospheric quality to it: descriptions of the long days of sun and of the North’s tepid summer merge with our characters’ outlooks to create an emotional place where we buy in and hope. Outcomes are never assured or hinted at in this balanced narrative.

The tremendous degree to which these characters engage us testifies to Mr. Kennedy’s unsurpassed skill in rendering human thought and emotion. The reward of the denouement gives this excellent, touching novel its parting chord, the final concordant arpeggio, which you will take away and savor. I congratulate Mr. Kennedy, and anxiously await my chance at the next Copenhagen Quartet number.
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