From the back cover:
Doyle is in the supermarket when the latest vision hits. Fear. Fire. Death. And an ornately engraved ancient amulet. As usual, the Powers That Be are none too specific. When he comes to, he is being tended by an anxious young woman named Terri Miller.
A shy girl from a small town, Terri is new to L.A., and feeling like a wallflower in the bright lights of this big city. Soon after her encounter with Doyle, who heads off without more than a perfunctory thank-you, a charismatic young man invites her to a meeting for a club to which he belongs.
Meanwhile, Angel and his gang have been turned on to a killer who burns his victims beyond recognition. Several of the deceased have connections to Terri’s newfound circle of friends, and Cordelia suddenly finds herself in possession of an amulet that looks awfully familiar…
Lest you think I read that description and went, “Ooh, that sounds totally awesome!”, I hasten to explain that the first five words were sufficient to induce me to check this book out from the library. I’ve read a few Angel tie-ins before, but they were all set later in the series, and consequently did not feature Doyle. And the supermarket part sounded potentially amusing. I fully expected the rest to be pretty crappy.
Alas, the supermarket turned out to be a disappointment. I wanted to see Doyle amidst the bright lights and cheesy muzak, searching grumblingly for some hard-to-find but specific item that Cordelia had sent him to fetch. Or maybe rejoicing on having scored a good deal on something random, like squash. But no, he was just on a Guinness run. Boring.
I heartily disliked Terri, who was one of those whiny “I’m so worthless” people I can’t stand. Here’s an example: she’d promised to pick something up at the store for a homeless guy, but forgot. Instead of going back in like a normal person, she was overcome by “a sense of failure greater than any she’d ever known.” She promptly joined a cult, despite having received a warning from one of its current members. When she later regretted the decision, I could summon no sympathy for her.
As predicted, the rest of the story was not good. The plot was lame and the characterization of Angel and Doyle often felt wrong. I had a hard time believing they’d say or think the things they were saying and thinking, particularly during a manufactured argument over whether Doyle was capable of charming the insipid Terri—his character further sullied by the fact that he actually liked her—in order to obtain information on the cult.
The author also had a weird habit of trying to justify things, like spending an entire page on why Doyle was using a pay phone instead of his cell to call Angel. Sometimes this resulted in puzzling lines like “Terri dropped her face into her hands. The fact that, even to her, her reaction felt obvious didn’t render it any the less potent.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but it seemed like the intent was to defend the clichéd writing.
Angel novels aren’t usually this lousy. I certainly hope there aren’t any out there worse than this one. For anyone considering giving them a try, I’d recommend Sanctuary as a good place to start.