An Occupation of Angels by Lavie Tidhar
After Archangels materialise over the bloodbaths of WWII, they take up residence in most of the world’s major cities. But what would happen if, more than quarter of a century later, something somehow managed to kill these supreme beings? Killarney knows and, as an agent working for the Bureau, a British agency that’s so secret it doesn’t officially exist, she finds herself embroiled in the consequences as, one by one, the Archangels die.
Assigned to trace a missing cryptographer thought to have information on the murders, she travels from England, through France, heading for the frozen wastes of the USSR. But there’s an unknown third party intent on stopping her, and there’s God, who also has an agenda. Not knowing who is friend and who is foe, and with only a brief glimpse of a swastika on angel wings as solid information, Killarney struggles to remain alive long enough to glean sufficient information to put together the pieces of the puzzle and complete what is, without them, an impossible mission.
An Occupation of Angels is exhausting, but in a good way. Tidhar delivers a supernatural spy novella that gallops along at a break-neck pace. True to his usual form, Tidhar drops you into the middle of the action, only feeding you pieces of information as they naturally come up in the story. The result is that you're endlessly intrigued, both by what's happening, and where and when it's happening. Tidhar never falls into the trap of standing back and admiring the alternative history he's created. Rather, he uses it, with all its richness and mystery, as an effective backdrop to a cinematic thriller, and the reader is left hungry for more.
What we're given is startling. Most of us are not used to thinking of angels as anything other than benign, if overwhelming. However, these angels inspire fear and dread easily, just by entering the scene. The figure of Killarney, our narrator and hero, is more than capable of holding her own with them. With her control issues, rampant mind/body dualism, and almost absolute amorality, she is never once upstaged by her winged adversaries. And she certainly keeps your attention. While she often seems curiously empty of motivations or emotions other than anger and suspicion, she is at her most interesting when she's at the end of her rope, and some humanity shows through.
I inhaled Occupation of Angels in one sitting, and I've no doubt you will too. This is another great read from Lavie Tidhar.