What if you were born into a doomsday cult and knew nothing of the outside world? What if everything you’d been told was a lie?
The clock is ticking …
Wayward teenager, Lola, is stunned when, out of the blue, she is summoned by her leader. Oblivious to the resentment her promotion has whipped up and determined to shine, she enters Michael’s inner sanctum.
Single mother and activist, Donna’s search for her son takes her from Brighton to Edenville, a once-peaceful commune in the Colorado desert. Trouble is brewing. The guards on the gate are armed. No one can leave; no visitors allowed.
But who is Michael? And what exactly is his agenda? As the line between what’s true and what is not grows increasingly blurred, time is fast running out …
There’s nothing I like better than a story about a religious cult and they don’t come much better than Angel Town. I read this in two sittings, it was that exciting, I just had to keep reading.
Activist Donna lives in Brighton, having brought up her three children on her own after her husband Rupert just upped and disappeared when the youngest, Jos, was only six months old. She never heard from him again. Sixteen years later, Jos has left home and moved into a squat, his behaviour having become more and more irrational. Then one day he vanishes and all she has to go on is that he left with someone called Naomi, and that he found a picture of his father.
Over in California, fifteen-year-old Lola lives with her mother, Esther, in Edenville, a once-peaceful commune in the Colorado desert. The Guardians of God live in relative harmony, believing that the world will end on Thursday, 12th May 1983, Ascension Day. That’s only a few months away, but their leader, Michael, has told them that his followers will all ascend with him to heaven and be reunited there with God. And they believe him. After all, he can fly and has wings and can hear the voice of God.
I used to work for someone who told me that at the second coming, all those who had found Jesus would be saved and everyone else would be ‘zapped’. Edenville believes in something similar, just narrowed down to a few hundred people ie its residents.
Lately, however, things have changed. The guards on the gates are dressed like ninjas and carry guns. And Michael’s behaviour has become more erratic. Then he summons Lola to live with him and everything changes. Why has he chosen her – no-one knows but it certainly causes unrest amongst the citizens of Edenville. Only Esther knows the truth and now she is in mortal danger.
I love this book. I have always been fascinated by religious cults. You don’t hear as much about them nowadays as you did in the eighties and nineties. I remember hearing about people who ran off to join the Moonies (most came back eventually), but the most famous was the Waco siege in 1993. The Branch Davidians as the sect was known, lived a simple life, preparing for the imminent return of Jesus. But when David Koresh, who declared himself the final prophet of the Branch, took over, things took a sinister turn and he began taking ‘spiritual wives,’ several of whom were reportedly as young as 11. This led to allegations of child abuse, but more famously, a stand-off with the FBI lasting 51 days resulted in a massive fire and almost 80 men, women and children, including Koresh himself, were killed.
Of course, Angel Town is set ten years before Waco, but the parallels are still there. Jim Jones and Jonestown are mentioned in the book – another religious cult which resulted in the mass murder-suicide in 1978, of 909 people.
I find it so fascinating, partly because I never understand the concept of brainwashing to this extent, not that I deny its existence, I just don’t get it. I suppose these people pray on the vulnerable, but that is probably too simplistic. Though for Lola and the other children, they have never known any other life.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Born and educated in Sussex, Fiona Cane graduated from Exeter University with a degree in philosophy. She worked in London in film, TV and entertainment PR, before moving back to Sussex with her husband and young family. When she wasn’t coaching tennis or looking after her two children, she’d be scratching away at her latest novel.
She says: “I’m unusual in that I write across several genres – mystery, cosy mystery, psychological thriller, literary thriller and coming of age – but the one thing my books have in common is that they will keep you turning the page. I have written five other books: the mystery, A Song Unsung (2021); the literary thriller, The Other Side of the Mountain; the cosy mystery, A Push Too Far, the psychological thriller, When the Dove Cried; and the mystery Killing Fame.”
The author explains her inspiration for Angel Town:
“I was a teenager in the eighties and wanted to travel the world, but my mother wouldn’t allow it. She was convinced I would fall in love and join a cult. ‘It’s what girls did in those days,’ she is fond of telling me. She had a point, cults such as The People’s Temple, The Branch Davidians, The Children of God, and The Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, were grabbing global headlines at the time. But having read Philosophy at university, where my religious beliefs were actively drummed out of me, I was convinced I could never be taken in by the nonsense spouted by a superficially charming person and give up everything – family, wealth, possessions – to blindly follow. However, during my research I discovered that, under the right conditions, there are plenty of sane, intelligent people who do. No one, it seems, is immune.”