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'Angelology': A Cross-Bred Monster Of A Mystery


What do you get when an Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate and critically acclaimed memoirist trolls for the same readers who loved Dan Brown's search for the grail of best-sellerdom in The Da Vinci Code? In the case of Danielle Trussoni's Angelology, a spellbinding quest novel.

Move over, vampires. Dark angels are on the horizon in Trussoni's hefty fiction debut. Leading the pack are the Nephilim — beautiful warmongering angel-human hybrids who have controlled human destiny since Noah's flood — and their soldier minions the Gibborim, who resemble a legion of towering Darth Vaders with wings. The forces for good are members of the ancient esoteric group of Angelologists, who have protected humankind from the Nephilim for centuries.

The search in Angelology is for a mysterious and potentially dangerous lyre that lies at the bottom of Devil's Throat cavern in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria. The lyre is connected with the fallen angels described in the book of Genesis, as well as in the Orpheus myth.

Trussoni traces a lineage from 925 A.D. in Thrace, when the first group of Angelologists made an expedition into the Rhodopes in search of the lyre, to New York in December 1999, when the latest clash between Angelologists and Nephilim is at hand.

Contemporary seekers for the lyre, on the side of good, are Sister Evangeline, a young nun at a Hudson River convent just north of New York City, and her French grandmother, Gabriella, a venerated Angelologist who was trained at the academy in Paris. When Verlaine, a young scholar, discovers through his research that the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller was a secret patron of the convent, he inadvertently opens the door to danger. The wealthy Grigori family of Nephilim, once allied with the Nazis and now based in an elegant apartment on the Upper East Side, learn of his find, putting the convent and, if the Angelologists are to be believed, the world, at risk.

Trussoni, whose earthbound memoir Falling Through the Earth took her into the tunnels in Vietnam where her volatile father had searched for Viet Cong guerrillas in 1968, has worked out her fantasy scheme brilliantly. Her literary riddles resolve with the aesthetically pleasing precision of a well-oiled antique clock. She offers up intriguing characters, lyrical nature descriptions, hidden clues, secret codes, hidden manuscripts and treasure hunts, creating a sumptuous and surprising novel.

Naturally, a sequel, Angelopolis, is in the works, as is a movie. And there's a Web site for amateur Angelologists, complete with spooky music, a lesson plan and a link to a YouTube video of the Devil's Throat cavern. Given the seductive powers of her first venture, Trussoni could be dreaming up fallen angels for years to come.

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Jane Ciabattari
Jane Ciabattari is the author of the short-story collections Stealing The Fire and California Tales. Her reviews, interviews, and cultural reporting have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, the Paris Review, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, Bookforum, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and among others. She is a current vice president/online and former president of the National Book Critics Circle.