Narrated in the first person by 14-year-old Colin, this urban fantasy is set in multi-racial Hackney. Colin, who is 4’ 10” and sounds like a girl, has a hard time with his peers. Every trip to school has to be planned like a military operation – will his friend Polly be at the bus stop? Should he disappear into the newsagents and hide until it is safe? Clover is good at depicting the tension and territoriality with which a stretch of pavement can be imbued. Added to his other problems, Colin is psychic – he can see things before they happen, including the bomb that explodes in Clissold Park.
When Colin’s Uncle Jimmy appears, he helps Colin to make sense of his special powers (he shares them) and develop them. The two can leave their bodies and fly over Clissold Park, encountering ‘lamia’ (people’s souls) on the way. Can Colin help Polly when her lamia is stolen and will he find out what really happened to his father? So far, so engrossing – Clover makes a good and entertaining fist of combining youth culture, Hackney street language and fantasy elements.
But for a fantasy to really convince, the author must eschew waving his magic wand to keep the elements of the plot on the move. In Dirty Angels credibility falters in the final section where Clover overloads the narrative with fortuitously useful new characters and introduces twists in increasingly frenetic flights of fancy. Less will be more for this debut novelist who has plenty of talent to bring to the table.