Kim Newman – Angels of Music

Woo hoo! More fun from the ubiquitous Kim Newman, once again playing his familiar game of “spot the reference”. Having had great fun with the Anno Dracula series, he’s turned his vast intellect to another literary figure: the Phantom of the Opera.

Erik, as the Phantom is named, isn’t bent on world domination, death and destruction or anything like that. No, he’s running a detective agency. At any given time, he has three female agents, coordinated by his assistant, while he stays in the shadows, communicating by speaking tube, and if your brain isn’t squeaking “Charlie’s Angels”, it’s probably of the wrong age. Erik calls his agents Angels of Music, which pretty makes that explicit.

The book is made of a number of stories, at least some of which have been previously published, spread over a wide range of time, with different teams of Angels in each one. The Angels include Irene Adler, a name familiar to Sherlock Holmes readers, Sophy Kratides who Sherlock Holmes readers should also recall[1] and one Elizabeth Eynsford Hill, who you might recall under her maiden name of Eliza Doolittle.[2] And others.

Adversaries include Charles Foster Kane, who not content with trying to stir up a European war, is selling rather nasty food from his, err, Burgher Kane stalls.

I’ll just mention some of the gags and references I spotted[3]:

She expects the pleasure of the company of Rhandi Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar, and his daughter, the Princess Jelhi.

I’ll, err, Carry On with the next one if you didn’t like that.

The clowns were performing some interminable rhapsody from Bohemia

No? Oh well, easy come, easy go…

Just in case anyone didn’t remember Irene Adler

‘Prague is in Bohemia’, said Irene. ‘Not my favourite vacation spot.’

Well, no. And one more…

‘We aren’t the Angels you seek,’ said Unorna, low and even. There was a pause. Kate fancied she heard a humming sound. Unorna made a small, precise gesture which drew the eye in. ‘These aren’t the Angels we seek,’ said Max, waving them on.

Oh dearie me….

Yes, it’s all enormous fun. If you enjoyed the Anno Dracula books, you should enjoy this too.

[1] OK, from The Greek Interpreter. We learn here what happened to her after Holmes’s not particularly helpful intervention
[2] Pygmalion? Oh, all right, My Fair Lady
[3] There are probably many more