This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and is reprinted here with permission.
Richard Lange’s Angel Baby starts with Luz literally busting out of the hellish life she has in Mexico with her abusive husband, Rolando. While he’s away, she shoots her way out of the house where she’s kept under guard, and hooks up with Malone, an American who will drive her over the border so she can reunite with her young daughter, Isabel, in Los Angeles.
Trouble is, Rolando is El Principe, a big shot in a drug cartel, and there’s no way he’s letting her get away. He puts his most dangerous man, Jerónimo, on her trail, threatening to kill Jerónimo’s family if the man fails to bring Luz back. Along the way, a crooked Border Patrol cop also gets involved, and Luz’s dream of seeing Isabel again gets dimmer, as well as her hope that she’ll survive Rolando’s wrath.
As with his debut novel, This Wicked World, Lange showcases a cast of complicated, multidimensional characters. Jerónimo is a stone-cold killer, but he’s also terrified for the family he dearly loves. Luz is a former drug addict who’s made bad choices, but she’s determined to go clean and start over with her child, if only given the chance. Malone is a sad drunk, but will do the right thing when necessary. At times, the story digresses into the background of too many characters, but Lange’s unflinching glimpses into people’s hearts, where darkness resides alongside the light, make this a riveting read.
Nerd verdict: No Angels here, only complicated characters fighting personal demons