Scrambling to Survive: MysteryPeople Q&A with Patricia Abbott

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Patricia Abbott’s Shot In Detroit was one of my favorite crime novels of 2016. It follows Violet Hart, a down-on-her-luck Detroit photographer who sees her last chance at a big artistic break with her growing collection of photos of the city’s dead young black men. Abbott gives us complex looks at art, race, and morality with a protagonist to match. This bleak satire of art and urban decay is the kind of book you want other people to read, so you can talk about it. Luckily, I had the opportunity to talk to the author herself.

“The idea for Shot In Detroit came from asking myself if Detroit were a person, what would he/she be like? How could I combine the rough, lonely, beaten- down Detroit of 2010 with the brave, humble, and pugnacious one that was still there too. How would that person (a woman in this case) navigate the 2011 streets?”

MysteryPeople Scott: It sounded like the idea for this book had been with you for some time – what was the spark of it?

Patricia Abbott: The idea for Shot In Detroit came from asking myself if Detroit were a person, what would he/she be like? How could I combine the rough, lonely, beaten- down Detroit of 2010 with the brave, humble, and pugnacious one that was still there too. How would that person (a woman in this case) navigate the 2011 streets? Then I came upon an New York Times article about a photographer (Elizabeth Heyert) whose gallery show and book (The Travelers) photographed the deceased in Harlem. That seemed like a perfect fit for Violet Hart. Photographing the dead was something most of us wouldn’t be able to do. Even in the hands of an artist, it might be viewed as distasteful, exploitive, sinister. Hopefully I was able to persuade the reader that it was art by the end of the book. Although getting to that end was treacherous.

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Congrats to the Edgar Award Nominees!!!

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We were happy to see many of our favorite books and authors nominated for this years MWA Edgar Awards. Many of the books that made it into our Top  10 lists of the year, like Reed Farrel Coleman’s lyrical noir Where It Hurts and Alison Gaylin’s tale of celebricide What Remains Of Me, made the cut. Two of our favorite debuts of the year, Flynn Berry’s Under the Harrow (a tale of sisterly revenge) and Joe Ide’s IQ (an imaginative take on Sherlock Holmes, set in South Central LA), made the list for best first novel.

This may be the first year of mother-daughter nominees, with Patricia Abbott up for Best Paperback Original for Shot in Detroit and Megan Abbott up for Best Short Story for her contribution to Mississippi Noir. Some of out favorite anthologies, including Mississippi Noir, St. Louis Noir, and In Sunlight Or In Shadow: Stories Inspired By The Painting Of Edward Hopper had at least one story nominated for Best Short Story.

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Scott’s Top Ten of 2016 (Make it a dozen. Okay, fifteen or sixteen.)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was a great year for crime fiction. Established authors experimented with new ideas or pushed what they were doing further. People with great debuts in 2015 proved it wasn’t just beginners luck this year. 2016’s new releases were so good, it was difficult to narrow them down, so I put a few together and made it a dozen.

97803991730351. Anything and All Things Reed Farrel Coleman

This year Coleman started a new character, ex-Suffolk-County-cop-turned-sorta-PI Gus Murphy (Where It Hurts), ended the series featuring dwarf detective Gulliver Down (Love & Fear), and delivered a Game Change in the life of Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone (Debt To Pay.) All of it was executed with a poet’s choice of words, haunting emotions, and believable leads in a struggle to find who they are and what matters to them. He also had brilliant short stories in the anthologies Crime Plus Music and Unloaded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reed made out some moving grocery lists as well.

97803995743202. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Possibly one of the best crafted crime novels in a decade. Nick Mason finishes a twenty-year stretch in five due to a criminal kingpin who runs his empire from the inside. Upon Mason’s release the kingpin’s lawyer hands him a cell phone that is the condition of his release – he must answer the phone at any time and do whatever he is told on the other end. Everything Hamilton sets up in the first few chapters falls beautifully into place by the end.

97803162310773. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This dark, morally complex tale looks at ambition and the dynamics of family support for their gymnastics prodigy daughter as the family and community react to a murder that occurs in their sporting community. Abbott further pushes the boundaries of noir.

97805254269434. An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear, and Deputy Vic Moretti find themselves having to solve a mystery in a town overrun by a motorcycle rally. Guns, outlaw bikers, federal agents and a woman from Henry’s past all play a part in unraveling the final mystery. Johnson strips down the cast to his most essential characters for one of the most entertaining books in the series.

97800623698575. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

A multi-layered psychological Hollywood thriller, in which a present-day murder of an actor is tied to the past murder of a director, and the same woman gets blamed for both. Gaylin’s character development beautifully dovetails with a plot that is never revealed until the final sentence. Beautiful, stunning work.

97803991739506. The Innocents by Ace Atkins

The latest and angriest of The Quinn Colson novels has our country boy hero and Sheriff Lillie Virgil solving a torturous murder of a former cheerleader, dealing with the worst aspects of Southern small town society. A book that enrages as it entertains.

97803079612737. Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Spiegelman introduces us to his new series character, a doctor who keeps his Skid Row clinic afloat by making “house calls” with his mercenary pal to the rich, famous, and criminal, who don’t need anything reported on medical records. A very interesting, complex hero, and an interesting look at L.A.

97812500099688. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

In Murder at the 42nd Street Library, Con Lehane introduces us to another great new character, Raymond Ambler, Curator of the Crime Fiction Collection for the New York Public Library and amateur sleuth. A satisfying mystery with a lived-in, warm look at friendship and a worker’s look at New York.

97819438181749.City of Rose & South Village by Rob Hart

The seconds and third installments following unlicensed private eye Ash McKenna takes him to two very different places, tracking down a stripper’s daughter in Portland and a solving a murder on his friend’s Georgia commune, charting a progression of a broken man putting the pieces of himself together. Plot and character meld seamlessly into this compelling tale of a lone hero who feels he can not be a part of the society he helps.

978076537485110. Night Work by David C Taylor

This follow up to veteran screenwriter David C. Taylor’s debut, Night Life, has police detective Michael Cassidy protecting Castro during his famous New York visit. Taylor makes the city and period a living, vibrant thing coming off the page.

11. Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott9781940610825

This story about a photographer who gets obsessed with a project involving young black men challenges us at every turn about race, class, and art and crime fiction itself. It is a book where the author complements the reader by assuming you are as intelligent and open to difficult topics as she is.

978098913299212. Genuinely Dangerous by Mike McCrary and Kiss The Devil Goodnight by Jonathan Woods

Two dark wild rides through a pulp hell that is pure Heaven for crime fiction fans. if Barry Gifford was still running Black Lizard he would have signed these guys up.

MysteryPeople Review: SHOT IN DETROIT by Patricia Abbott

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9781940610825Patricia Abbott’s Shot In Detroit is a book that challenges the reader. Abbott takes on several uncomfortable topics, more interested in their human truth than couching them in a gentle tone. Set in 2011 in a Detroit still reeling from the financial crisis, Shot In Detroit is half murder mystery, half extremely dark comedy. She even comes close to confronting the reader with the very book in their hand.

Even the protagonist can be initially hard to accept for some. Violet Hart struggles from a few bar mitvahs and weddings as a freelance photographer. At 39, she feels the doors closing on her opportunity to be considered an artist. When her lover, Bill Fontanel, a black mortician, asks her to snap some photos of one of his deceased, she becomes obsessed with a gallery idea, pictures of young dead black men. She gets a gallery interested, working Bill to supply the subjects. When she hasn’t filled the number of subjects she needs, a story that was dark to begin with goes pitch black.

Abbott is less interested in making Valentine relate-able than in nailing her complexity. She realizes you need to know her toughness and self involvement as well as the artistic desperation that she captures spot on, that moves her into her colder actions. She creates an interesting reader-heroine relationship, tightening the reader’s bond with Valentine as she spirals deeper and deeper into an abyss of her own creation.

The story covers many hard issues race, class, death and how we deal with it, and art all tangle upon one another, leading toward the issue of appropriation. Valentine’s photo collection mirrors that of many crime fiction writers, often white, who use the lives and deaths of the disenfranchised, often of color, for their work. Abbott looks deeply into this matter, yet turns any true judgment to the reader.

Fans of the fifth season of The Wire or the cult classic Man Bites Dog should enjoy this modern take on the classic quandary of shooting violence on camera. Abbott judges the reader and her protagonist equally for their shared obsession with observing death, and carefully explores the easily-crossed border between documenting suffering and causing it. Shot In Detroit is a book worthy to read and discussed. Patricia Abbott is honest in both subject and emotion. It may be heavy lifting for some, but it is well worth the weight.

You can find copies of Shot in Detroit on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Scott’s Top 10 Debuts of 2015

– List compiled by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Usually I only pick five novels in this category, but this was such a great year for new voices, the list needed to be expanded. I even had to cheat a little and allowed two to tie for the top.

978039917277997803991739671. Where All Light tends To Go by David Joy & Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Both these authors proved there is still a lot of life in rural noir. Writing with the skill and emotion of seasoned pros, they bring the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia to vivid, poignant, and painful life with their tales of fate, family, and violence.

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If you like Gillian Flynn…

– Recommendations from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
9781940610382Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott
This book follows the crimes and misdemeanors of a mother and daughter, centered around when mom talks her thirteen year old in taking a murder rap for her. This debut does for mother-daughter relationships what Gone Girl did for marriage. You can find copies of Concrete Angel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9780425278406Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt

With the help of her psychiatrist, a woman tries to find her missing child, even though she has no proof or memory of when her child was taken. Burt mixes vivid characters, a strong sense of pace, and the perfect amount of biting satire to make this a one of a kind. You can find signed copies of Remember Mia on our shelves and via bookpeople.com
The roots of Flynn and her contemporaries. This book gives us eight authors who truly deserve their due in helping create the domestic suspense sub genre. An entertaining eye-opener. Accompanying essays online allow the crime writing enthusiast to explore the history and themes of suspense writing through the decades. You can find copies of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s: A Library of America Boxed Set on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, 12) Of 2015 So Far

Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, 12) Of The Year So Far

We are now in the last month of summer reading. If you want to go out with some quality crime fiction, here are some suggestions of books both talked about and deserving of attention. It was difficult to cut this list down and even when I did, I doubled up on a couple that shared a few traits.


the cartel1. The Cartel by Don Winslow

This mammoth, yet fast paced look at the war with the Mexican cartels is epic crime fiction at its finest. Full of emotion, great action, and sharply drawn characters, this book is destined to be on a lot of critics’ list for 2015 as well as becoming a classic. Even more entertaining, is that Winslow’s drug kingpin, Adan Barrera, has a lot in common with current fugitive Cartel boss, El Chapo.


bull mountainwhere all the light tends to go2. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich & Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Both of these rural noirs by debut authors show there is still a lot of life in the subgenre. These books view ideas of violence, kin, honor, and retribution with the eyes of an author with decades of experience and the energy of newcomer.


long and faraway gone3. The Long & Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

The ambitious novel balances three mysteries to look at the ripples of a violent act and the effect it has on the survivors. Great pacing and clean, accessable style allow for this rich, multi-character story to flow beautifully.


bishops wife4. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Loosely based on a true crime, this book gives us an inside and very human view of modern Mormon society. Harrison balances both interior monologue and exterior dialogue to give us a main character who doesn’t know if she can always speak her mind.


doing the devil's work5. Doing The Devil’s Work by Bill Loehfelm

A routine traffic stop for rookie patrolman Maureen Coughlin leads to a conspiracy involving a black drug dealer, white supremacists, guns, a prominent New Orleans family, and some of her fellow officers. Loehfelm renders the both the drudgery and danger of police work and the web of corruption that even ensnares good cops.


love and other wounds6. Love & Other Wounds by Jordan Harper

These short stories herald a great new voice in crime fiction. Harper has a cutting prose style that reveals the souls of violent men.


soil7. Soil by Jamie Kornegay

A mix of Southern gothic with psycho noir about a failed young farmer who finds a body on his flooded property. Kornegay knows how to capture people driven by their obsessions and at the end of their rope.


concrete angels8. Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott

Abbott’s inverse retelling of Mildred Pierce has a classic feel even though the story about a daughter caught up in her mother’s mania and criminal schemes has a modern psychological bent. A page-turner in the best sense of the word.


past crimesthe devils share9. Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton and The Devil’s Share by Wallace Stroby

Two great hard boiled tales from the criminal point of view. Whether Stroby’s heist woman or Hamilton’s “reformed” criminal out for revenge, these books deliver all the tropes with a fresh take and pathos.


all involved10. All Involved by Ryan Gattis

This tapestry of short stories that take place in L.A. during the six days of the Rodney King Riots is both blistering and human. A historical novel that has a lot to say about the present.


You can find copies of the books listed above on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: “How To Launder A Shirt” by Patricia Abbott

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72

One of the best summer reads this year is Patricia Abbott’s The Concrete Angel. I mentioned in my review of it that Patricia was known for her short work. She was kind enough to share one with us for our crime fiction Friday. “How To Launder A Shirt” shows her ability to use simple domestic acts to build an underlying sense of dread. It also has a killer last line.

“How To Launder A Shirt” by Patricia Abbott

I can’t stop thinking about my husband’s new wife.

She must throw his shirts into a clothes dryer because I haven’t seen them hanging on the line. Not once. In fact, the clothesline is wrapped around one of the metal poles out back—as if it hasn’t been used in years. I’d like to tell her that line-dried sheets can be awfully nice. She’d be surprised at the difference fresh air makes. Maybe Helene didn’t grow up in a place where you could hang wash outside in the bright midday sun and capture that scent. I’d bet she grew up in the city where clothes that hung outside sometimes had to be washed again. Or the feel of them wasn’t something you wanted on your skin.

Helene stands on our porch all the time. Joe never did like putting chairs outside so it’s empty just like it always was. It still needs painting and has the same loose floorboard just as you step up to the door. He said a chair on a porch was an invitation for folks to visit, and he didn’t care for strangers in his house. Not even on his porch. I said “our” porch just now when I really meant “their” porch. No one ever talks about the difficulty of altering pronouns when a marriage is finished.

She stands there smoking like I did once—burying the butts as I did too. She’s hoping for a car to pass by or watching the brazen crows pick corn from the farm next door. Maybe looking for an airplane to fly overhead. The days can be so long that you want to break them up with almost anything. I still remember that—the way a ringing phone or a crop duster became something exciting.

Late in the day, Helen might be looking for the school bus to drop off my kids. Her hair, which is long, wispy, and reddish-blonde blows prettily in the wind. The back of her hand shades her gray eyes when the sun starts to drop eye-level. I kept my hair short after a few mishaps. Nothing could grab hold of it.

Now towels—towels need a dryer with one of those little paper sheets to make them soft. Hang them on the line, and the wind can blow the softness right out of them. It can take a long time to learn which routine works best on which laundry. Trial and error, but Joe isn’t the most patient man. You’d better get your Ps and Qs straightened out fast where he’s concerned.

Helene wears slacks—the dressy kind with pleats. Joe never liked me to wear— trouser— as he calls them. Said a woman with legs as good as mine owed it to her husband to show them off. I didn’t mind. Well, yes I did mind, but when a request—or an order really—comes along with a compliment attached, what can you do? Joe even had a specific skirt length he preferred. Too long, and he said I looked like an Amish woman. Too short and I looked like a—well, you know. Since we didn’t have a full-length mirror in the house, I figured he knew best.

I wonder when Joe started liking pleated slacks. Maybe Helene’s legs don’t draw men’s glances. Despite what he says, it’s just as well they don’t. That’s one of the tricky things about Joe—he blames you for what happened when you were just following his orders.

Perhaps his new wife—Helene— sends his shirts to a laundry. Maybe that place on Elm Street in Marine City tends to their things now. Chinese people are known for their skill in laundering shirts. If this is the case, Joe must’ve changed his mind in the last year or two because he couldn’t tolerate commercially-laundered shirts in my day. Said the chemicals they used in laundering his shirts were poisonous—just like that MSG they put in food. Told me the machine that tumbled the clothes was filled with other people’s germs.

Joe was very particular about most things, in fact. Like his shoes, for instance. They always had to point north in his closet. Point them east or south and I was likely to spend some time in the closet with them. Forget to insert the wooden trees and well….

Joe worked for—well he still does, come to think of it—the Ford dealer down in Warren. Sales were down to almost nothing that last year of our marriage. I kept telling him I could get a job and he kept—well—doing what he did when he got angry. Now the car business is back on track, I hear. If only things had recovered more quickly, it might be me looking for the school bus from that porch.

It’s possible Joe’s invested in wrinkle-free shirts although that would surprise me. That kind of shirt was around in my day, but neither of us was satisfied with the way he looked in them. They had the sort of sheen that bounced off your eyes, looked like they might melt into your skin if you stood too close to a fire. Actually, I didn’t think they were that bad, but Joe said he lost sales when he wore one. Said, it looked like he couldn’t afford anything better—or that no one was taking good care of him.

I felt my eye twitch as I watched him finish the knot on his tie that last day, wondering if I’d carelessly put too much starch in his shirt collar. It looked so stiff against his neck somehow. Joe’s neck was tender and getting the starch just right took some doing. I can’t tell you how many fights we had early on over those shirts. I wish I could warn Helene about that.

Although the laundering of shirts seems like a simple thing, it’s one that comes up every day. The care and maintenance of shirts involves equipment and processes that choke, burn, and electrocute. It’s easy to fall going up and down the cellar stairs. One can strangle on a clothesline that twists cruelly on those metal poles. Things you care about like your good coat or the kitten that climbed up on the porch one day can turn up inside a clothes dryer.

I just can’t stop thinking about my husband’s new wife. She’d do well to get the procedure for the care of Joe’s clothes sorted out as quickly as possible.

Unless she wants to rest well under the back-forty… with me.


You can find copies of Concrete Angel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Patricia Abbott, author of CONCRETE ANGEL

patricia concrete

Patricia Abbott’s debut novel, Concrete Angel, is the involving tale of Eve Moran and the twisted, decades-old relationship she has with her daughter, Christine. The book is an engaging character-driven thriller about love and dependence gone awry. Patricia took some questions from us dealing with her book and relationship with her own daughter, acclaimed noir novelist, Megan Abbott, whose most recent crime novel, The Fever, is soon to hit the small screen in a television adaptation.

MysteryPeople:  What about the idea of Concrete Angel appealed to you as a first book?

Patricia Abbott: I really liked the idea of flipping the plot of Mildred Pierce. But how exactly to do it? When I read about a mother and daughter being convicted of various incidents of fraud and other small crimes and that the daughter claimed her mother made her do it, that seemed like the right fit. How could a mother make her daughter (in her twenties, in this case) commit numerous crimes over many years? I needed more insight into their situation. And then I remembered a childhood friend whose mother had enormous power over her because of her dependence on her mother. It was just the two of them in a pretty scary world. That was also somewhat the setup in Mildred Pierce (after a younger daughter died). Except in that case, Mildred’s extreme love for Veda made her the victim of her monstrous daughter. In Concrete Angel, it’s Christine’s love and dependence on her monstrous mother that sets things into motion. And since that childhood friend lived in my native city of Philadelphia I could set it there. This made it work because I knew their house, the places they went, the bakery they shopped in even. Many of the incidents from the section of the book where Eve marries Micky DiSantis are based on their lives.

MP: Was there a particular reason to send a lot of the action in the seventies?

PA: I wanted to recapture the Philadelphia of my youth and early twenties. Although the book goes well into the seventies–up to 1982, in fact, it is mostly the sixties that I write about in detail: going downtown to glamorous movie theaters and stores, a slower time before towns like Doylestown and Hatboro became outer suburbs. In the mid-sixties they were country towns. I had access to how Philly was changing until my parents left in 2003 or so. But what I remember best were the Kennedy and Johnson years.

MP: Eve is one of those characters you feel compelled to read about, even though you probably wouldn’t want to deal with her in real life for ten minutes. What did you want to get across to the reader about her?

PA: Originally the entire book was set in the third person. But Eve took over every scene until I gave Christine her own voice by putting her sections in the first person. I wanted you to fear and dislike Eve, but she is the more memorable character. She is funny and seductive. Christine can’t hold your attention as a reader because she’s been stunted as a person through dealing with her mother for almost every minute of her life. Likewise Hank, who may escape her, but to what. I wanted you to feel sympathy for Eve from time to time though. She has a few good moments here and there. But on the whole, she is a parasite. She will never see beyond her own needs.

MP:  As someone who was both a mother and daughter. was there anything you could apply to your own experience to such a twisted mother-daughter tale?

PA: I hope not. My mother and I had a difficult relationship in my childhood. She felt pressure (from her mother and sixties norms) for her kids to be perfect. I think she wasn’t that interested or adept in mothering–although not one could admit that in the fifties and sixties. But she was a great mother to an older daughter. We got along beautifully as adults when she no longer felt responsible for me. As for Megan, she was a very easy child to raise. I hope I encouraged her to set goals and pursue them, but mostly it was something inside her. Nobody works as hard as Megan–nobody demands more of the her self. I hope the pressure didn’t come from me, but I can’t say for sure. After a while with children like mine, the expectations may be too high whether you are aware of it or not.

MP: Your short work is well respected. Besides length, what is the major difference between writing a novel as opposed to short story?

PA: I wrote the average short story in about a month to six weeks. This was when I worked on a story every day for 3-4 hours. I began each day by editing the story from the beginning. Of course, I could not do this with a novel and that made me very nervous. I felt as if I lost control of it from time to time. And also, I had to expand the cast of characters considerably and give them all more to do. And, I was used to being rid of them and onto a new idea in a month or so. I wanted to be done with Eve Moran badly. That’s why I give her all the jokes-or what I hope are jokes. I was in danger of drowning in her evilness. I felt like Christine most days. The length of time you must spend with your characters was probably the hardest thing to adjust to.

MP:  Concrete Angel had a long and arduous road before it found a home at Polis Books. How did it feel to see it on a bookstore shelf for the first time.

PA: It felt great although so far it has only been in pictures I’ve seen on the Internet. Book Beat, where I did my first reading, sold out of them so there were none on the shelf. I am realistic about the likelihood of seeing it on many shelves. Perhaps in stores specializing in crime fiction, perhaps in New York stores. But if it succeeds at all, it will be because people like Scott Montgomery hand sell it.

You can find copies of Concrete Angel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

MysteryPeople Review: CONCRETE ANGEL by Patricia Abbott

concrete angels

Many of us in the crime fiction community have been looking forward to a novel from Patricia Abbott. Her short work has appeared in anthologies and various short story sites for the past several years. It reads like a throwback to the domestic suspense writers of the fifties like Margaret Millar but with a modern psychology. She proves to be able to apply this in a long format with her debut novel, Concrete Angel.

Abbott kicks things off with the line, “When I was twelve, my mother shot a soda-pop salesman she’d known less than eight hours…”

The first four chapters take place during the mid-Seventies. Eve convinces her young daughter, Christine, to take the rap for the murder of a soda-pop salesman, and the two convince the law and others of their story. We then go back to Eve’s life, starting with her upbringing by two simple Christian parents, who were somewhat removed. Eve exhibits manic behavior but remains undiagnosed. She is bent on hoarding, and that soon leads to stealing. We see how she meets Christine’s father, a well-to-do printing magnate; we see their marriage, Christine’s birth, and the crime that leads to their divorce. After separating from her husband, Eve turns to new economic strategies, bringing men home for one-night stands and then cleaning out their wallets in the morning.

The book is told from Christine’s point of view. This includes events that occur before she is born, where Abbott shows her agility with voice. Christine describes events through a prism, relating what little she knows about her mother. It allows us to follow Eve, a character most of us would have trouble being around for ten minutes in real life. It also takes us into the relationship of the two, hinged on a daughter’s desire for attention from a mother who can rarely take the spotlight away from herself. A relationship that comes to a head when Eve has another child and becomes involved with a potentially dangerous man.

The writing always keeps us involved. We’re grabbed with the inciting incident, then given the history that lead to it and how it created our narrator. Christine is a believable character forged by unbelievable circumstances, confused by her situation and struggling to discover herself and find love, but smart enough to handle the most trying of circumstances. Like James M. Cain, Abbott shows how a crime at first bonds its perpetrators. then corrodes that union.

Concrete Angel is the most dynamic mother-daughter relationship since Mildred Pierce. It is told with a style and point of view rarely seen in a debut. Patricia Abbott confirms what many of us already knew about her talent. Here’s hoping many more will find out soon.

You can find copies of Concrete Angel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.