#Review: Angel Town by Fiona Cane @FionaCaneWrites @RandomTTours #blogtour #newrelease #thriller #cult #1980s #AngelTown

By | June 10, 2022

It’s an absolute pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Angel Town, the sixth novel from Fiona Cane, and to share my review. Independently published on 16th June, this book is now available for pre-order. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours (and to the author) for the invitation and support, and for arranging my advance reading e-copy.

I’ve been rather looking forward to this one. I first came across Fiona back in August 2015, just after the publication of The Other Side of the Mountain: I ran an interview (you’ll find it here if you’d like to read it again), and then went on to read the book a few months later. And it was one of those special books that surpassed my every expectation – set in Haiti, the writing was incredibly strong, and the story one of the most gripping and emotionally engaging I’d come across in a long time (you can read my full review again here). There was a long wait for her next one, but A Song Unsung was everything I hoped it would be – a dual timeline with a UK setting this time, a coming-of-age story with a mystery at its heart, about an impressionable teenage girl who falls under the spell of a beautiful woman with a mysterious past. Entirely different from her earlier book, and I really loved it – and so did every member of my real-life book group when I insisted they read it (you’ll find my review here).

Her latest book again looks like something entirely different – and perhaps very different from my usual choice of reading. But I really couldn’t wait…

What if you were born into a doomsday cult and knew nothing of the outside world? What if everything you’d been told was a lie?


The clock is ticking …


Wayward teenager, Lola, is stunned when, out of the blue, she is summoned by her leader. Oblivious to the resentment her promotion has whipped up and determined to shine, she enters Michael’s inner sanctum.


Single mother and activist, Donna’s search for her son takes her from Brighton to Edenville, a once-peaceful commune in the Colorado desert. Trouble is brewing. The guards on the gate are armed. No one can leave; no visitors allowed.


But who is Michael? And what exactly is his agenda? As the line between what’s true and what is not grows increasingly blurred, time is fast running out…

This book will – she says with some confidence – win the author a whole new audience for her writing. The whole subject of cults is something many find fascinating – but although I’m old enough to remember Jonestown (and would you believe that even Waco was now nearly 30 years ago?), and did find the whole context intriguing, the attraction for me was more about seeing the author trying something entirely different. I have endless admiration for anyone who refuses to follow a successful formula, reinventing themselves and their writing with each new book – and although the subject matter wasn’t quite what I might have usually chosen to read, I really wanted to see how well she handled it. And my confidence was certainly repaid – while I didn’t always find the reading an entirely comfortable experience (and I will explain why), I was blown away by its sheer originality, the confident handling of its challenging content, the way its characters drew me into the story, and the way the tension built towards the inevitable explosion as the book’s end approached.

At first though, I’ll admit I struggled a little – I got a little lost amidst the different echelons in the Edenville enclave and the Divine Protector’s Ascension House, and the speech patterns of the key players felt a little uncomfortable. I even started making notes – I felt I needed to get a handle on the Dominions and Guardians, Tributes and Powers, and what their roles were, and worried when I wasn’t able to keep track. But as I followed young Lois’ story, “called” (and torn from her family) to be at Divine Protector Michael’s side at the approach of the apocalypse, I decided it might be better to just let the unfolding story carry me along, focus on the key characters, and allow the world the author created to take shape around them – and that approach worked so well that I quickly found myself entirely immersed in the story. Actually, not just immersed – breathlessly living with her through every twist and turn, feeling the way the fanaticism coupled with the manipulation of the population was heading towards an indefinable and terrifying climax.

There is another major thread to the story – Donna’s son Jos, back in the Brighton, struggling both with his mental health and some family issues, targeted by a Tribute seeking new recruits for the cult and taken to join them. And mother Donna (and she’s a wonderful character) follows in pursuit – and hers is a story that provides something almost like light relief, but with a whole set of complications of its own. Meanwhile Lois and Jos find themselves at the heart of the cult’s headquarters, their presence becoming something of a catalyst for the chaos that follows.

I’m not doing a particularly good job of telling the story – and I really don’t want to, because the author does it so much better. But there was so much I really enjoyed about this book, and perhaps one of the things I enjoyed most was Lois’ narration – despite my initial reservations about her voice, I soon grew to love her. Her isolation from the Otherworld has shaped her, but her spirit certainly hasn’t been subdued by the oppressive regime – she’s feisty and funny, and the author gets right inside her character and all she’s experienced and tells the story from her unique perspective. But she’s not the only strongly drawn character – every individual who plays a part in the story is fully rounded, entirely believable, and that strong characterisation really does drive the story.

I’m incredibly impressed too by the unique world the author creates of Edenville in its isolation, with its hierarchy and conventions and expectations of its people, ruled by fear – exceptionally detailed, and uncomfortably entirely believable. As the world begins to disintegrate and implode, the story becomes a tense and gripping thriller, the outcome for its key characters and for its wider community in the balance until the very end. Yes, there are plenty of messages too – the way individuals are attracted by the promise of something “more”, and the way power corrupts – but the book’s climax is also sheer unadulterated and high octane entertainment.

Had it not been for my awareness of the author’s writing, and my appetite to read more, I wouldn’t have picked up this book in a million years – but I’d have missed something particularly special. And I know it’s unlikely to be to everyone’s taste, but it’s good to sometimes step outside your usual limits. Quite a read – and one I’d recommend really highly.

I’ll just add a short note from the author about her inspiration:I was a teenager in the eighties and wanted to travel the world, but my mother wouldn’t allow it. She was convinced I would fall in love and join a cult. ‘It’s what girls did in those days,’ she is fond of telling me. She had a point, cults such as The People’s Temple, The Branch Davidians, The Children of God, and The Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, were grabbing global headlines at the time. But having read Philosophy at university, where my religious beliefs were actively drummed out of me, I was convinced I could never be taken in by the nonsense spouted by a superficially charming person and give up everything – family, wealth, possessions – to blindly follow. However, during my research I discovered that, under the right conditions, there are plenty of sane, intelligent people who do. No one, it seems, is immune.”

About the author 

Born and educated in Sussex, Fiona Cane graduated from Exeter University with a degree in philosophy. She worked in London in film, TV and entertainment PR, before moving back to Sussex with her husband and young family. When she wasn’t coaching tennis or looking after her two children, she’d be scratching away at her latest novel.

She says: “I’m unusual in that I write across several genres – mystery, cosy mystery, psychological
 thriller, literary thriller and coming of age – but the one thing my books have in common is that they will keep you turning the page. I have written five other books: the mystery, A Song Unsung (2021); the literary 
thriller, The Other Side of the Mountain; the cosy mystery, A Push Too Far; the psychological thriller, When the Dove Cried; and the mystery Killing Fame.

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