How well do you know your family? Yourself? In, James Patterson’s latest murder mystery, Tandy Angel, an incredibly intelligent, not to mention, extremely rich, teenager confronts these questions as she searches for her parents’ killers. As typical in young adult novels, the parental figures are disposed of within the first couple of pages of the story ruthlessly, leaving the female heroine in a state of vulnerability and distrust. Tandy Angel is the self-conscious contradiction again, that teenagers in young adult novels often are. Throughout her investigation, she suspects everyone from her neighbors and uncle, to her own family, and even herself. The only person she confides in is her reader. Tandy’s various
“CONFESSIONS” to her readers throughout the novel make us feel as though we know exclusive details about both her and her family. Tandy’s self-discovery illustrates a common YA novel trope that defines Patterson’s novel: the notion that growing up means coming to terms with the fact that humankind is flawed and more importantly, learning to love yourself and others despite these flaws.
“I need a friend…Can you do that for me?”
Tandy establishes that her readers are her only confidantes. She asks them to listen to her story without judging, and to be accepting. This expectation she makes upon readers conveys a sense of insecurity, suggesting that she is worn-down from constantly having to satisfy the high expectations set by her strict and demanding parents. The Angel children, while described as being gifted with almost superhuman talents and abilities, are all extreme representations of teenage stereotypes and dilemmas. Matthew and Hugo, the eldest and youngest son, both have uncommon strength, but embody the highly impulsive nature of young adults. Harry, the family’s art prodigy and Tandy’s twin, epitomizes emotional instability. Finally, Tandy, praised by her family for having a sharp mind and indifferent heart, proves to be an overly self-conscious perfectionist. Even with Malcolm and Maud Angel gone, the Angel children remain trapped by the pressure of maintaining the image of themselves that their parents ingrained in their heads through intense therapeutic and psychological means against the reality of them being just young adults, with the inherent desire to be independent, free, and vulnerable to making countless mistakes in life.
“My life is claustrophobic”
The “CONFESSIONS” Tandy makes to her readers provide us with an insider’s view into her own insecurities. While she is deemed a “prodigy”, her character still deals with issues that plague every teenager, such as the pressure to please everyone. She constantly makes reference to disappointing her parents when she loses her calm while also seeking the approval of readers with regards to her storytelling.
“So what do you think so far, reader?…Am I doing a good enough job in my investigation? Would Malcolm and Maud be proud of my work?”
Although the novel provides some unexpected twists and subplots, the development of Tandy’s character throughout the story ends up being the defining aspect of this murder mystery. The mystery of the Angels’ murder actually becomes secondary to Tandy’s emotional growth. The supposed “climax”, where readers discovers what really happened to Malcolm and Maud is not as shocking or satisfying as might be expected from the build-up throughout the novel. With a novel that throws all notions of family into disarray, I wanted more of a twist. This is not to say that I disliked the ending of the book. I felt artificially satisfied and hoped for a more cryptic resolution, as many subplot story lines still remained untouched.
“…I would not be a robot”
Disappointingly, Tandy proves to be the only character who really goes through a transformation in this novel. Her rebellion against the life that she had always led, spurred by the death of her parents, enables her to break away from the emotionless and empty mold of “perfection” that her parents created. While she is initially characterized only by her strong desire to find her parents’ killer, she becomes a symbol of “strength” in the face of loss at the end of the novel. The complexity of Tandy’s character juxtaposes the static nature of her brothers. Although a subplot storyline develop, centering around Matthew Angel, for the most part, the Angel brothers are not very exciting characters in this book. Even Malcolm and Maud’s characters show more development throughout the story, and they are dead within the first couple of pages. Despite the lack of engagement with the Angel brothers, the many facades of Tandy Angel kept me interested throughout the novel.
“I forgive both of you”
All in all, Confessions of a Murder Suspect is a relatively satisfying novel about the development of a teenage girl. As a murder mystery, I would say that it falls below average, but as a tale of emotional discovery, Patterson’s book proves successful.