Throwaway Angels

by Nancy Richler,
264 pages,
ISBN: 0889740623

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First Novels - Sardines of Poverty
by Eva Tihanyi

Nancy Richler's Throwaway Angels (Press Gang Publishers, 240 pages, $14.95 paper) is touted by the publisher as "a fast-paced mystery novel", but it is neither fast-paced nor sufficiently mysterious. In fact, the mystery, which is never satisfactorily solved, seems to be little more than an obvious plot device.

The protagonist, Tova, is originally from Montreal, but now manages a laundromat in Vancouver. Her partner, Lynn, ended their long-term relationship two years ago, calling her "inflexible" and "stuck in routine". As the novel opens, Tova is lonely, depressed about her life and her self, and her reluctance to take chances. Enter Gina. Gina is everything Tova isn't: gutsy, flamboyant, at ease with herself. Tova develops an unconsummated crush on Gina, who has recently traded her job as a dancer in a strip club for a position in a pet store.

When Gina suddenly leaves town without notifying anyone, Tova decides to find her. In the process, she gets involved with the strip joint scene, deepens her friendship with a laundromat employee whose abusive husband is stalking her, and learns about herself. Unfortunately, the writing style is wooden in places, and the book never really takes off. Gina and Tova are interesting characters, but the mystery genre doesn't work well for Richler, and there's a forced quality about the whole book. The reader becomes all too aware that this is a work of fiction that has been painstakingly sewn together; the seams show. The social commentary, for instance, is pat and predictable. Strip joints are sleazy, the law doesn't deal severely enough with wife abusers, and yes, there are nice guys out there.


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