In her latest novel, Angel Time, author Anne Rice strays from the vampire-laden subject matter of her past and plumbs the heart and mind of a killer transformed. “Lucky,” or Toby O’Dare, makes his engrossing entrance as a heartless hitman with a checkered past.

A boyhood bent toward the priesthood goes awry when his drunkard mother derails his path with repeated selfishness. When a series of events leads Toby to meet an eventual faux-father figure, he falls into a life of cruel anonymous crime. His gradual shift from a spiritual boy to a cold assassin gives insight into how easily wrong can be justified and absorbed into the mundane.

In stark contrast to his murderous lifestyle is his ever-present, yet latent, interest in all things sacred. He often seeks solace at The Mission Inn, a local getaway marked by a tranquil monasterial atmosphere. Toby also habitually reads history books, enjoying the neat and tidy accounts historians glean from the trials and tumult of the past. His need for conclusion speaks volumes about a complex character whose troubled past perpetuates his hardness of heart.

One night, after completing an assignment to kill, Toby is visited by an angel called Malachi. His life is quickly catapulted to the Middle Ages, where he adopts an alternate existence as a friar. He is prompted by Malachi to look outside of himself and see the suffering of a couple of persecuted Jews in the town of Norwich, England. Toby quickly comes to realize that his past can be redeemed by choosing to help save lives rather than take them.

Rice masterfully weaves together the elements of Toby’s story to demonstrate the irrelevance of time as we experience it. She communicates the poignant truth that a character can indeed be extracted from an old life—saved to another for the task of intervening in evil to bring forth greater good.

Cory Bordonaro is a freelance writer, crafter and barista in Birmingham, Alabama.

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