Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong
UST Publishing House, 229 pages
Twenty-five year old lounge singer Laurice Saldiaga is found dead in her room at the Blue Angel Cafe and Bar in Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown. Inspector Cyrus Ledesma, a Chinese mestizo cop with a dark past is assigned to investigate the matter. The bar owner, Antonio Cobianco, is a known associate of Mayor Lagdameo Go-Lopez. Ledesma walks into a cauldron of intrigues, labyrinths, crumbling edifices, dogfights and suspects that include a jaded whiskey drinking female bar manager, a psychic journalist, a dyslexic piano player, a quick trigger pit bull owner, an aging saxophone player and Cyrus’ own uncle, Police Chief Ruben Jacinto.
One of my favorite classes in college that wasn’t my major was my Lit class, not only because I had an awesome professor, but because I just simply loved to read. I loved that I was required to pick up a novel for class, and write a report about it. The only lit class I had was Philippine literature so I was only required to read local fiction, some written by some professors in the university. While that wasn’t what what I usually read then, I didn’t mind — I was allowed to read non-textbooks for class. In a word, it was awesome.
Reading Charlson Ong’s Blue Angel, White Shadow reminded me of those college days. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but there’s something about this book’s tone that reminded me of that. It’s been a while since I last read a serious Filipino novel so it took me some time to adjust to the tone of this book. In Blue Angel, White Shadow, we was introduced to Filipino-Chinese cop Cyrus Ledesma who was sent to investigate the death of Laurice Saldiaga, found dead in her room in The Blue Angel Cafe. The investigation leads us down Cyrus’ dark past and introduces us to several other characters — bar owner and singer Rosa Misa and her fiesty daughter Rosemarie, the old and kind-hearted Antonio Cobianco who has his own secrets, Manila Mayor Lagdameo Go-Lopez who formerly wanted to be a vet, pitbull owner Robert Cobianco, and Cyrus’ priest friend Fr. Jay among others — all somewhat related to the death of the singer.
I was expecting a typical murder mystery novel as I read Blue Angel, White Shadow, but was surprised to find something more. Instead of just following the main character collect clues to find out whodunnit, I was led through different character studies as for most chapters, I was introduced to the different people and how they were all (or will be) connected. It felt a little confusing at first, and I was impatient to know how all these characters related to the opening incident. I liked reading about the characters but I guess I was expecting something else that was why it took me a while to really get into the story.
But once I did, I realized just how good the author was in weaving the story. Even as he exposed the characters, their past and their possible motivations one by one, I couldn’t figure out who was responsible. Sure, other issues and conspiracies were discussed, but there was never a solid clue that pointed to the culprit. Once it was finally exposed, however, it seemed…well, obvious. It wasn’t even ingenious, just…well, obvious. I guess my years of watching CSI has never really rubbed off on me. The ending was pretty satisfactory, and interestingly, there was even a little romance. I liked how everything tied up in the end, answering most of the questions but not in a too clean way that it didn’t seem realistic anymore. I remember giving a satisfied nod as soon as I closed the book, my mind content with how it ended.
This isn’t really my genre, but I liked Blue Angel, White Shadow, and I am truly impressed by Charlson Ong’s writing. I feel like I could learn a lot with how he wrote his characters. I hope that the seriousness of the cover or the blurb wouldn’t make readers ignore this book because it is an enjoyable piece of fiction, even if I did feel the need to write a book report for school after reading it. :D
2011 Challenge Status:
3 of 20 Filipino Books for 2011
My copy: review copy from UST Publishing House, c/o Tarie. Thank you! :)
Cover and Blurb: Goodreads
Dark Chest of Wonders