January 6, 2013

Don’t Give the Devil Sympathy

Start with serial killers, mix in drug dealers and gangbangers, then stir with Washington DC political intrigue, and you have the plot ingredients of Sympathy for the Devil (ISBN 0609608495).

Christopher Chambers, author of Sympathy for the Devil, is a Washington D.C. native. According to the short biography on Amazon, he is a professor and “Lecturer in Journalism and Media Studies at Georgetown University. His innovative courses include titles such as ‘The Decline of the Public Intellectual & the Rise of the Pundit in Modern Journalism,’ and ‘Expeditions, Executions & Exposes: Establishing a sense of Place and Personality in Travel, Crime Writing and Investigative Reporting.’ He has lectured on issues in communications, culture & the media and race across the United States for organizations such as Black Entertainment Television (BET), the National Association of Black Journalists, and Princeton University. He writes for theRoot.com, Uptown Life magazine and the City Paper (Washington). Professor Chambers is a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, and a graduate of Princeton University.” You might want to check out his blog.

FBI Agent Angela Renee Bivens, the African American protagonist in Sympathy for the Devil, along with two other Black female agents, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of Justice. Unlike the other two women who accepted monetary settlements, Angela continued her case and won a jury trial. Her foil, Victor Styles, who was her instructor in law school and is now the Deputy Director of the Bureau, does not like losing, so instead of assigning her to one of the field offices that she requested, he offers an assignment in the FBI’s Metropolitan Washington Field Division. However, she will not do any investigative work. She will serve as liaison between the FBI and the Washington DC Metro Police Department and report directly to him about what the MPD is doing. Anxious to get back to work, Angela, against her lawyer’s advice, accepts the offer.

Neither she nor Styles expects her to get involved trying to stop a serial killer or killers who is killing drug dealers and gangbangers, and kidnapping and murdering teen age girls. The Metro Police Department and the FBI believe the killings are due to war among the gangs. They suggest two teenage girls found stuffed into a Porta Potti were killed as retaliation by one gang against another gang. Against orders, Angela and her partner Kristi, a Barbie Doll-like White woman, began gathering clues that, to them, seem to indicate one or maybe two persons are doing the killings.

I was enjoying the story even with a couple of kinks, for instance an escape from a police station, a car chase, and a shootout, all involving tiny Angela, challenged the suspension of my disbelief. Despite this challenge to my disbelief, I was still emotionally involved watching Angela chase down clues that would lead to the identity of the killers and anticipating the final confrontation between her and the killers when Chambers dumps a hackneyed ending on me that I’ve seen in to many movies and TV shows and read in too many thriller novels. Despite the gunplay, the helicopters and explosions, the near dead condition of Angela, the ending rather than conveying excitement to keep your heart pounding slides into dullness that puts you to sleep.

I was not encouraged to read the second Angela Bivens novel A Prayer for Deliverance: An Angela Bivens Thriller (ISBN: 0609608509) but, as always, I advise you to read the novel for yourself.
If any of you out there in readerville decides to read the second novel, please advise me if it would be worth my time and effort.