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The Angel Collector

Bali Rai
June 2007
Opening shortly after the disappearance of Sophie, ‘The Angel Collector’ sees her boyfriend, Jit, and Sophie's parents paralysed by the uncertainty as to what fate might have befallen her. Need for a definite resolutions drives Jit to lead his own enquiries into his friend’s alleged abduction.

Bali Rai’s descriptions of the various dubious ideologies associated with the cult in the book, one of the prime suspects believed to have been implemented with the disappearance of Sophie, shows a clear understanding of the social instability caused by rhetoric and dogma that disassociates itself from even the most basic of humanist ideals. The politicised nature of the cult , a group of individuals forming an enclave of their own rigid and unquestioning beliefs, makes for a compelling, wholly convincing and engaging and thoroughly enraging narrative.

A surprise wholesale turn in narrative direction gives a highly unexpected twist in the tale. This device, however, is neither entirely satisfactory, nor presented in a manner that makes it credible within the story.

Ironically, the nature of prejudice that Rai’s prose incisively negotiates with regard to race is seemingly arbitrarily switched. Implication that the motivation for extreme behaviour carried out by one of the main characters is derived from a gender confusion that stems from infanthood is a facet of the novel that makes for a convenient explanation, but one whose superficial psychological depth succeeds only in making these passages emotionally cold, lacking in sympathy and slipping into the types of prejudice they have so skilfully manoeuvred where race is concerned.

As with Bali Rai’s previous fiction, this is a novel filled to capacity with action, pace and adventure. It is an admirably written and compelling thriller. Nonetheless, failure to engage with possible motivations for the anti-hero's extreme behaviour makes ethics overt, simplistic and unredeeming. The cumulative effect of this is corosion of the base of an incisive expose of prejudice through a stereotyped view of 'perversion' that endures long after the novel has been read undermining what otherwise might well have been exemplary.

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