2.5 stars, I think.
I should preface this review with two qualifiers. First, I'm not a diehard Linda Howard fan nor hater. I have no expectations, good or bad, when I see a book by her. I look at the synopsis, if I'm interested I read. If I'm not, I don't.
Second, I like flawed, less-than-perfect characters. Those who inhabit a world of grey rather than black or white and right or wrong. Some are considered anti-heroes. Others are sociopaths. Some are both. On occasion, even outright pure evil can can be appealing. So I had no problem with the protagonists being a killer and a, well, bimbo.
I think I've read a total of six of Howard novels, including this one. Two I've loved. One, I thought was just okay. Two others, I couldn't get into enough to finish. DEATH ANGEL falls somewhere in between the latter two categories.
It was pretty good up to the point where Drea "died", even though it got bogged down with way too much information about moving money. After this point, I was so not interested I basically skimmed the remainder of the book. Things picked up some when "Simon" revealed himself, but Howard had lost me with the near death experience and redemption theme. (What was so wrong with them before?)
But DEATH ANGEL has a bigger problems than a flawed theme - lack of character development and what there is makes little sense.
Why Drea flips out at being "given away" makes no sense. Yeah, being upset, makes sense. Getting so angry and wanting such great revenge doesn't. She was in the relationship with Salinas for what she could get. From her own thoughts, she made no pretense of being in love with him. She didn't even seem to like him much. She knew he didn't think much of her. That was her "plan", play dumb. She was arm candy just like she intended. He "gave her away", so what? They were both just playing their self-imposed roles. Feelings of humiliation and anger, I understand. So angry, she needed to "hit him where it hurts." Why? He ultimately owed her nothing just as she owed him nothing. She got the shopping and living in the lap of luxury, he got arm candy and laid. Payment for services rendered had been exchanged.
Drea's sudden change of heart after 4 hours of sex, even great sex, made even less sense. Fifteen years of clawing her way to something better was suddenly tossed out the window after a few orgasms? Huh? I get great chemistry and the desire to connect on a deeper level with a man, but "the assassin" was that man? The assassin, whom she liked even less than Salinas? That made no sense for such a "street smart" and calculating woman. Drea, if nothing else, was a realist, except when it came to this plot point. So it felt contrived.
An even greater tragedy was Howard's extreme lack of development of "Simon". He was half the story, yet we got absolutely no glimpse into what made him tick except a couple of sentences on the last few pages. No feeling as to why such a careful, calculating, practically-self-admitted sociopath would be capable of turning his life upside down for this woman. Sorry, "skin chemistry", as he called just didn't cut it. Simon could be a stick figure (one into tantric sex) for all the depth he had. (Oh yeah, four hours of sex and his final "release" was depicted like an after thought. Kind of a let down, no pun intended.)
It's unfortunate. This novel could have been some much better if it had been more about the characters involved.