LitStack Review: Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace

by Sharon Browning

Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace
Release Date:  October 20, 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-8528-4

What a strange, perverse, hilarious and utterly entertaining little book this is!

Sin du Jour is a private catering and events company based in Long Island City.  Run by Chef Byron “Bronko” Luck, a former purveyor of a group of wildly popular gastropubs that closed down when he died (“briefly”, he says, by way of explanation), Sin du Jour comes with a very exclusive clientele; in fact, you could call them diabolical.

We learn about Sin du Jour when down-on-their-luck culinary roommates Lena Tarr and Darren Vargas get a call from Bronko asking if they want to work the line for a massive job for which he suddenly finds himself short-staffed.  It would be a week’s worth of work, maybe more, and they would have to start at 6:00 am the next morning.  Lena and Darren jump at the chance to work with such a famous chef (and to keep from having to call Darren’s parents to ask for help making the rent), so the next morning, knife cases in hand, they find their way to the nondescript building that houses Sin du Jour – and are thrown into an adventure that has to be read to be believed.

Instead of telling you more about the plot of the story – you’ll need to read it for yourself – I’ll tell you about my reactions to it.  I started off skeptical.  The writing style was sparse, and everything moved at a fast, crisp pace.  I wasn’t quite sure if I was buying into it at first.  But the tone was humorous, and I found Lena and Darren to be fun, and believable.  Their introduction to the Sin du Jour hit all the right notes.  Then things started to get weird.  I remained skeptical, but intrigued.  The weirdness was… bizarre, violent, and, well hit all the right notes.

As the action continued, I found myself being willing pulled in.  I was worried at first that the story was going to turn into a squick-fest; you know, pushing the boundaries of morality in order to shock (which happens far too often in our current entertainments) but surprisingly, the tables turned and the rest of the story galloped through squeamishness, mysticism, pop culture hilarity, downright outrageousness and a fair amount of gore, played out against the sumptuousness of fine dining.  Because the focus was on redemption rather than depravity, the depravity that did unfold was able to be as funny and appalling and facetious as it was intended, without fear of debauchery.  It hit all the right notes. When all was said and done, I found myself an unabashed fan, feeling as if I had spent the last day thoroughly entertained.

And I was delighted to find out that Envy of Angels is the first of a series of books based on Sin du Jour.  I immediately ordered the second book of the series and am delightfully looking forward to its arrival.

So if you are looking for a quick little read that is both sacred and profane, audacious and fun, check out Envy of Angels.  I have only one thing left to say:  once you’ve read this book, you’ll never look at Chicken McNuggets the same again.

~ Sharon Browning

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