Set amid the haciendas and fragrant orange groves of Los Angeles in the 1880s, Souls of Angels is an enthralling story of family and faith, loyalty and betrayal.
When Isadora Lugo learns her that father has been convicted of murder, she reluctantly travels home for the first time in ten years. At age seventeen she’d fled her troubled home life in Los Angeles to serve Christ in India as Sister Ria, never planning to return. Yet as a child, Isadora had promised her dying mother that in times of trouble she would care for her father, the eccentric Don Maximiato Lugo. And trouble had indeed come. Following a haphazard investigation and speedy trial for the brutal killing of a local prostitute, Don awaits his fate in the family hacienda, sketching and painting and sinking into madness.
Believing it is too late to save her father’s life, Sister Ria urges him to confess his sins and save his soul. But he only mocks her efforts. Those around Don Lugo–the loyal Mexicans who consider him a saint; his eldest daughter, Milagros; and the family’s longtime housekeeper, Aba–are adamant about the patrón’s innocence.
For her own peace of mind, Sister Ria seeks evidence of her father’s innocence or guilt in the side streets and back alleys of Mexican Los Angeles. But every clue she finds hints at something darker and more sinister and weakens her faith, as her very life is threatened by an ominous unseen figure that shadows her every move.
Souls of Angels captures the vibrant and conflicting cultures of Anglo and Hispanic Los Angeles at the end of the nineteenth century. Brilliantly balancing emotion and suspense, Thomas Eidson takes us deep into the heart of an extraordinary woman as she faces the ultimate test of family loyalty and risks her soul to uncover the truth.
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Thomas Eidson is the acclaimed author of The Missing, which was made into a major motion picture directed by Ron Howard, St. Agnes’ Stand, All God’s Children, and Hannah’s Gift. He lives in Boston.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was late, sometime past three in the morning. She was making her way through the darkness shrouding the old plaza, following the main brick pathway that twisted and turned through overgrown oleanders and scrub oaks and mountains of Castilian roses. The town was silent, the sky deep ebony without a moon, the landscape only faintly illuminated by the glow of the new gas lamps that fringed the hundred-year-old gardens like amber beads on a necklace. Storm clouds were coming in from the north. Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled and a coyote yipped an answer, and she shivered in the cool air and walked faster. She had been with one of her regular customers and was half drunk and angry because the man had ripped her new dress. She pulled the hem up close to her face and walked on, squinting to see the tear in the material, swearing under her breath. The dress had cost a week’s work. She let the material drop and touched gently at the small bruise on her cheek, then stopped and pulled a hand mirror and rouge from her bag and tried to see herself in the moonlight, straightening her hair and patting color over the sore spot. Dorothy Regal was twenty-four years old, though she appeared not over sixteen—the mercy of Providence, she liked to say. She was staring into the glass, wondering how much longer she could sell herself as a child, when something moved in the darkness behind her—her eye just catching a blur of motion in a corner of the little mirror. Her breath reversed in her throat. “Hello?” she called softly, not wanting an answer. There was none. She started walking again, faster and with more purpose, assuring herself that the movement had been made by one of the town’s cur dogs hunting garbage left by picnickers. Even so, it wasn’t smart being in the plaza this late. Nervous in a way that she didn’t fully understand, Dorothy stopped once more, turned in a slow circle, and searched the surrounding blocks of shadows. She could see nothing unusual. The stars were bright in the sky over the darkened town, the gardens quiet and beautiful, the clouds edging closer. She did not see a figure slipping away through the shadows. But she sensed the movement. For the past month, she’d had this same feeling. She didn’t know why. There was just the unease. Dorothy took a deep breath, then began walking again, drawing her shawl tightly around her. She left the darkness of the plaza and crossed Olive Street, heading north, and turned on to the wide dirt street that was called La Calle del Negro by the Mexicans. Shivering once more, she wrapped her arms around her thin shoulders. She could feel the rainstorm approaching in the cool night air, coming in as it always did during this season from the Tehachapi Mountains to the north, driving the smell of the deserts ahead of it. Someone was playing a piano badly in one of the few establishments still open, and she could hear weary laughter from a window above her. While she had calmed a bit, she kept moving. She was chilled and tired and wanted sleep. The road and sidewalks before her were empty. A few lanterns hung outside the buildings, casting dull puddles of yellow light on the ground, and both sides of the street were lined with bars, bagnios, and Chinee caves. Knowing that the Americans ran the liquor and gambling, the Mexicans the bordellos, and the Orientals the opium, she wondered how the place ever came to be called La Calle del Negro. She stopped in front of a two-story wood-frame boardinghouse, La Fiesta. She was home. At least the room upstairs in the back where she met customers and lived was a home of sorts. She touched again at the bruise on her cheek, a momentary veil of melancholy dropping over her. Maybe she should just go back to her real home. But she shook her head at the thought, hard enough to make her long metal earrings yank at her earlobes. They would never have her back. Anyhow, she didn’t know if they were even alive. The rain was on her quickly, and she pulled her shawl over her head and hurried down the darkened path between two buildings, trotting up the old wooden stairs and entering her room. There was no lock, but she did have a wooden brace that she jammed at an angle between the floor and the doorknob. Finished, she felt better. She pulled her damp dress over her head and laid it out on the small bed. There was dirty wallpaper pasted over the window glass for her customers’ privacy, creating a heavy darkness. The rain was pounding hard against the roof. Something about the sound was comforting to her. Dorothy Regal put her hand on the slight swelling of her belly, held it for a moment, then smiled and struck a match and lit the candle on the nightstand beside her bed. She waited for the small flickering flame to grow before she bent and began to carefully examine the tear in her dress. A moment later, she heard a clicking metallic sound behind her, and she stiffened, then straightened up and slowly turned around. A figure was standing in a dark corner of the room, hatted and dressed in a black wrist-length cape, the hat’s brim pulled low over the eyes. Dorothy squinted at what she could see of the features in the weak candlelight. There wasn’t much. Her own breath sounded like the wind through the old tree outside her window. And she was trembling. Dorothy tried to compose herself, reasoning that most of her customers came to her room unannounced and wondering why this one should make her nervous. Her naked shadow lurched awkwardly like a puppet in the flickering candlelight wavering against the wall. Her eyes narrowed again. “It’s late,” she said. The figure nodded as if in sympathy and stepped closer. Dorothy was trying to see the face beneath the brim of the hat when something silvery flashed in the dull light like a minnow in a stream. For one brief moment she thought she had been spat on. Then she was staring up at the ceiling. e
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