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The Fifth Angel    by Tim Green order for
Fifth Angel
by Tim Green
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Fifth Angel, Tim Green gives us a smoothly paced and masterfully written thriller. It addresses a question that most of us have thought about as we watched or read news of the reactions of victims' families to the light punishments (and early releases) meted out to the perpetrators of crimes that have devastated them for life.

Lawyer Jack Ruskin feels guilty and suicidal after his lovely and loved young daughter Janet is severely damaged after being tortured by a sexual offender. Though his wife has blamed and left him, it is his daughter's state (and extreme reaction to his presence) that hurts him deeply. Janet is being treated in a psychiatric hospital, hasn't spoken since her abduction and cannot bear her father's presence, to the point that the staff have asked him to stay away for long periods.

Jack's second thoughts lead him to take the law into his own hands, and he begins to target, and dispose of, violent sexual offenders. Unfortunately the darkness that he deals out begins to creep into his own psyche and to affect a developing relationship that could be very important to him. A second major plotline shows us FBI agent Amanda Lee, juggling the demands of a perfunctory marriage and two small children with a career whose success has come from tracking down serial killers.

Amanda is assigned to work with an ambitious and flawed cop, McGrew, who becomes obsessed with adding the murderer of sexual offenders (who has given himself the moniker 'The Fifth Angel') to his growing list of solved cases. They take action to trap Jack that is at best ethically dubious. And, as a result of another past case, a pervert is seeking revenge on Amanda. Various traps are sprung but they do not end the story, which continues to a satisfactory and realistic conclusion.

Throughout, the reader is drawn into the question, 'What would you want to do in Jack's situation?' Different characters in the novel take varying stances as they have to decide whether or not to testify against him. Both Amanda and Jack (hunter and hunted) embark upon their courses of action without enough reflection, and each finally reassesses what they have done. The Fifth Angel is a thoughtful, thrilling read which you must pick up and won't want to put down.

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