I love dark crime and this is definitely dark! The main character, James Ravencroft, is an artist who, once he sets his eye on a model for one of his ‘still lifes,’ will stop at nothing to capture them on canvas – to become his ‘stone angels.’ ‘Capture’, of course, is the operative, word, since his models are not willing subjects. As his crimes continue, his damaged psyche unfolds and we learn what makes him tick.
There are ten victims and the book ranges backwards and forwards through time not only to show Ravencroft’s deadly cycles and what led up to them, but also the oedipal relationship with his brutally depressed and disturbed artistic mother – the root cause of his psychopathy. He yearns to be recognised in his own right. The other significant relationship in the novel, is between James and his agent. It’s the engine through which the tension ramps up over whether or not he’s actually going to get caught.
I think there’s a literary approach to this novel. It’s detailed and likes to dig deep, so isn’t a quick read. Though mainly set in the mid-twentieth century, there is something Edwardian about the early setting where James is portrayed as a child. It reminded me of the entitled lives and psycho-dramas of the Bloomsbury crowd, steeped in art, residing in their country houses hiding God knows what behind the scenes.
All in all, a fascinating and unusual ‘why-dunnit.’
Artist, James Ravencroft, thinks so. As his reputation as a painter grows, so does his need to find the next perfect model. They don’t just pose for him, they become his still life – his Stone Angels.
Haunted by his dead mother’s notoriety, James goes in search of an agent to give him what he wants: international prominence. But then, James discovers that his agent, Basil Hallward, has his own agenda. Now James must turn the tables and destroy the one person who can give him the publicity he seeks for his Stone Angels paintings.
Finally after ten years, he achieves his ambition to have a solo art exhibition for nine of his paintings, but the police are closing in on him.
James has one last chance to complete the tenth painting, but has he left it too late?
More about ‘Stone Angels’ from Paula herself:
The main character in Stone Angels is James Ravencroft, an artist with a dark heart. He’s passionate about the pure beauty of art. James first appeared in a Winning short story I wrote for the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival/Writing Magazine Competition in 2012.
Here’s an extract from that story: Roofscapes
“Hey, be careful with that!” the man snarled. With a single sweep of his hand the dangling picture found its place. He then turned his dark blue eyes on me, his shoulder-length black hair shone under the lights. In an upper class tone, he stated, “Aesthetics, my dear woman, art is for art’s sake,”
I caught my balance, and stepped off the ladder.
“Ravencroft,” the man said, offering me his hand, as his dark eyes shone with an eerie hilarity.
I ignored his proffered hand, and instead snatched up my clipboard, hoping he would just leave us to do our job.
“I love your work.” Jude fluttered her eyelashes and flashed her winning smile at him. He chose to ignore her, turning his attention fully on me.
Ever since he had arrived in the gallery with these godless pictures, Jude swooned over this hedonistic, overbearing man in his tight black jeans. I had kept my distance.
“Tina isn’t it?” he said, extending his hand to me again.
I nodded, still not accepting it.
He let his hand drop, unlike his smile. With a nod in the direction of his paintings he said, “You’re doing a grand job, though I expect the public will find something to criticize.”
I lowered my clipboard, “Really?”
“Yes,” he said, letting the word out slowly, “Tell me honestly what you think of my work.”
“Your work?” I shook my head. I had no wish to share my thoughts with the likes of him
“Yes,”He stepped forward, blocking my way.
“I see a darkly delicious city alive in the crowded street below,” Jude said.
Ravencroft turned to her, his smile too sweet, too nauseating. “I wasn’t asking you, my dear.”
I knew wanted the name Raven … Something. James Raven on its own was a flat name to me. It didn’t roll off the tongue. According to my dictionary of surnames Ravenscroft is a town in Chester, England. I just dropped the S so it became Ravencroft. James’s description I based on the 15th century a German artist, Albrecht Durer. There’s a famous self-portrait of the artist with his flowing hair.
Roofscapes was told from the view point of Tina Whiteoaks, a picture hanger in an art gallery. She met James, who wasn’t the main character in the story, through her work. In fact we learn everything we need to know about James through Tina and her friend, Jude via their emotions and reactions to him, and his interplay with them. Jude admired James on two levels as an artist, and a subject of desire. Tina, on the other hand found him to be hedonistic, arrogance, and intimidating.
I wrote James Ravencroft as very likeable. Many people would find him charming, intelligent, a little reserved at times, and even charismatic. Most serial killers are highly intelligent, it’s why most of them get away with their crime for so long, until you discover their darker side, by which time it’s normally too late if you’re their chosen victim. Of course James’s upbringing, like so many real-life serial killers, has some bearing on his outlook on life.
Paula R C Readman is married, has a son and lives in Essex, England, with her husband and two cats. After leaving school with no qualifications, she spent her working life mainly in low paying jobs. In 1998, with no understanding of English grammar, she decided to beat her dyslexia, by setting herself a challenge to become a published author.
She taught herself how to write from books her husband purchased from eBay. After making the 250th purchase, Russell told her ‘just to get on with the writing’. Since 2010 she has mainly been published in anthologies in Britain, Australia and America and won several writing competitions. In 2020 she had her first crime novella The Funeral Birds published by Demain Publishing, a single collection of short stories Days Pass Like A Shadow published by Bridge House Publishing. Her first crime novel Stone Angles was published by Darkstroke.