Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Hello, Darkness: Sandra Brown, May 18—22, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Paris Gibson hosts a late-night radio show featuring love songs and call-ins. She is joined overnight by only the tech guy, Stan, and the janitor. One night, a man phones in suggesting Paris had told his girlfriend to dump him, and as a result he had kidnapped her. In 72 hours he would kill her, and Paris would be next.
Paris finds herself at the centre of an investigation teeming with sleaze alongside Sergeant Curtis and her former friend, police psychologist Dean Malloy. Their backstory is gradually conveyed as the case progresses though much of it is hinted at long before its explicitly revealed.
In many ways, Darkness is a classic whodunit. Despite some divergence (such as there being no victim or crime), it follows a standard pattern of ruling in and out the same suspects until finally settling on the culprit. That sounds like a criticism but sometimes it’s nice to go back to basics and follow an investigation the way God made them. It’s well put together; the web of characters are interconnected all over the place so the runners and riders frequently move up and down the list.
Brown strikes a good balance when it comes to the leads’ personal lives, and we care about their story as much as the case itself. However Paris and Dean, for all their backstories and her sunglasses, are not hugely interesting people. Interest in the story is no substitute for genuinely caring about the characters, and there isn’t much to really care for. Their blandness is unobtrusive but could have tipped the scales from this being a good book to a great one.
I’m not often one to pick holes in plots because fiction often requires a degree of artistic license, but something about Darkness lacks credibility. Liberties are taken: Paris, the DJ, sits in on police interviews; another character remains on the case investigating a family member; and it’s never really acknowledged as completely absurd. Despite her stripes, Brown sometimes comes across as a novice who hasn’t done her research, pretending to write a believable piece. Such instances are infrequent but weaken the impact of the novel. Plus, anyone who refers to a person’s genitals as their “sex” deserves to have their pen snapped.
It’s cleverly written; there are twists and turns that keep you guessing. The characters go on personal journeys and pretty much anything that’s set up gets a satisfying payoff. But at the same time, not very much of Darkness will stay with you after the last page. Maybe like some of its characters, this book is here for a good time, not for a long time.