Abbott, Patricia. Concrete Angel. Polis. Jun. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781940610382. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940610443. F
Abbott, a prolific Derringer Award–winning short story writer, explores an unusual and complex mother/daughter bond in her enthralling, dark debut novel. Twelve-year-old Christine adores her beautiful and charming mother, Eve, and when a shocking act of violence threatens to tear them apart, Christine takes the blame, which sets the stage in the years to follow. Eve is compulsively acquisitive and amasses thousands of items that she’s bought or stolen. After Hank, Christine’s father, finally has had enough, Eve goes through a string of men who enable and even encourage her larcenous, obsessive behavior. Things come to a head when Eve begins using Christine’s little brother in her schemes, and Christine plots to break the cycle.
VERDICT Abbott alternates the narrative between Christine’s voice and a third-person point of view that follows Eve and her relationships. The author perfectly captures not only the life of a girl whose adoration of her mother morphs into mistrust and loathing but sets the story in 1970s Philadelphia when gender roles were taking on new definitions and alternative ways of treating the mentally ill were gaining traction. It’s a potent and at times poignant combination. Those who enjoy suspenseful, atmospheric family drama will find much to love here.
And a big thanks to S. J. Rozan, Meg Gardiner, Naomi Hirahara, Alison Gaylin, and Sandra Scoppettone for giving me the boost of a great blurb.