The 2012 follow-up, Angel City, continues the story of the struggle between angelic beings and their human allies against an array of darker forces, who themselves have allies both witting and unwitting. Jay Harper and Katherine Taylor continue their roles in the battle, separated by distance and by having memories of each other and time working together in Lausanne erased. Jay follows up a mysterious artifact left behind by a vanished religious sect, and Katherine copes with raising her son Max under the watchful eye of the supernatural organization that helped Harper rescue her.
Angel City is substantially weaker than Watchers. The cliffhanger ending is much more of a tease than Watchers' "perhaps there's more" finish, and the absence of Lausanne Cathedral bell-tender Marc Rochat's point-of-view narrative line drains the second volume of the magic and the heart the first one had. Katherine, having avoided isolating imprisonment/ enslavement at the hands of supernatural evil, spends much of the book in isolating imprisonment at the hands of supernatural good. Harper again seems a little lost and disconnected as a result of his memories being purged, but this time we already know what he is and so his search is less engrossing.
Even so, Angel City continues a fascinating story and displays Steele's gift for visualization and description very well. One reviewer suggested that so far, "The Angelus Trilogy" reads like Paradise Lost by way of Raymond Chandler, and both of those antecedents are promising enough to await the third volume expectantly.
Faro Duval and his three partners take on a job to get mining and food supplies from Santa Fe in New Mexico territory to a potentially amazing gold strike in Utah. They will have to battle the elements and deadly bands of Ute tribesmen whose territory lies between the city and the claim site. And although the claim owners have tried to keep the news of their find a secret, other and less scrupulous ears have heard the news and make their own plans to acquire the gold. Some of those ears may be a part of the supply train itself.
Compton writes a straight-up, no frills "story of the old West" after the pattern of Louis L'Amour. He lacks L'Amour's style and skill, but he doesn't pretend to have them and keeps within his limitations. There are more than a few clumsy story elements and scenes that don't have much purpose other than to offer yet one more obstacle for Faro and his partners to (naturally) overcome, but someone who picks up one of Compton's books seeking highbrow literature has been, like Rick Blaine seeking the "waters of Casablanca," misinformed.
There's something to that. Even more than his first novel, Play Dead, which was also reprinted some 20 years later, Miracle Cure is a product of its time. It focuses on a clinic whose research offers promising signs of a complete cure for the AIDS virus. Today, as different drug treatments allow persons with HIV to live many years beyond their original diagnosis, both the idea of the AIDS cure being a "breakthrough" and the stigma and mystery surrounding the disease seem a little mystifying themselves.
A secretive clinic may have indeed discovered the cure for the virus, but the three patients whose clinical results seem to prove it works have been viciously murdered. One of the researchers has committed suicide...or has he? Reporter Sara Lowell and her husband, NBA star Michael Silverman, are pulled into the matter when her network does a story on the clinic and Michael himself is diagnosed with HIV (Cure was in fact published before Magic Johnson went public with his own diagnosis in late 1991). Will the killer now target Michael, even if the treatment cures him? Will the powerful forces opposing the clinic's goal go too far in their prejudiced and misguided efforts? What secrets are the clinic staff themselves keeping?
Coben's disclaimer note on the reprint suggests that Miracle Cure is preachy, and boy howdy is he right. Several times we stop the story in order for different characters to offer Important Commentary on the real-world equivalents of some of its own events, such as prejudice against people with HIV, bigotry by those who see the virus's early isolation to gay men and IV drug abusers as a kind of Biblical judgment, and so on. Other than its protagonists, Cure offers a cast of cardboard cutouts, such as the Important Senator With a Secret, the Man-Hungry Hot Babe Who Gets Too Close to the Action for Her Own Good, the Close-Minded Religious Leader Whose Public Piety Covers His Greed and Hatred and the Vicious Killer With an Odd Character Quirk (he's really into clothes and his appearance).
But when he isn't stopping to sermonize, Coben deploys these standard pieces with the style and skill his later readers would grow to appreciate, and he keeps his story humming in between lectures. His focus on family and relationships is already apparent, and he also already had his knack for using them in his narratives. Read in 1991, Miracle Cure probably would have put Coben on the "give him a couple more chances" list. Read twenty years later, it's an interesting look at both the upside and downside of what he would be doing over the course of his career.