Christopher Conlon has followed up his fine first novel, "Midnight on Mourn Street," with another excellent story of damaged souls and the horror that lurks behind everyday life. "A Matrix of Angels" is the story of Frances Pastan, a bestselling children's book author who is also a deeply unhappy alcoholic, divorced and estranged from her young daughter. When a book tour brings her to Santa Barbara, on impulse Frances rents a car and drives up the coast to the little town of Quiet. She hasn't thought of Quiet in many years, but she lived there for a couple of months as a girl of twelve. It was there she met Lucy Sparrow, the best friend she would ever have, who fell prey to a serial killer.
If you're looking for a murder mystery, "A Matrix of Angels" really isn't one; we know the murderer's identity before the book is half-over. Instead, "A Matrix of Angels" is the touching story of a friendship between two lonely, unhappy little girls, a friendship doomed by circumstances beyond their control, and also the story of how Frances finally faces the inner demons that have tortured her for thirty years. Throughout the book, Conlon demonstrates his impressive abilities of tight plotting, sharp dialogue and empathetic insight into the minds of his characters. As a bonus, Conlon includes the original short story that eventually grew into the novel. The story is fine, but the novel is better, and demonstrates what a few of us already know--that Conlon deserves to be far better known than he is.