Thursday, October 10, 2013

Darkness First by James Hayman


Darkness First by James Hayman is an entertaining read. The plot picks up right from the prologue and hurls you straight into a gruesome mystery involving a bunch of gory murders and drug thefts committed by an intelligent, merciless villain. 

Summary: The book opens with an elaborate drug theft, by a man who calls himself Conor Riordan. He is the man who never was. No one knows who he really is and he doesn't hesitate to tie up loose ends, killing off anyone who could reveal his identity. Detective Maggie Savage of Portland PD gives her father, Sheriff John Savage a visit, when the mutilated body of Tina Stoddard is found in her hometown and her best friend is severely injured in the same attack. Back home, as the case progresses, Maggie learns that her wayward ex-Army younger brother, being the victim's boyfriend, is one of the prime suspects. As her colleagues seemingly fight over who gets to bag the case, Maggie seeks help from her partner in Portland, Detective Michael McCabe. Together they try to save the one person who has seen the killer: eleven year old Tabitha Stoddard.

My thoughts: The book has everything it needs to be a popular whodunit: a badass heroine with a unique name, a mostly attractive cast (one of them looks like McNulty, except with blue eyes), partners with that sexual tension and a swift pace. I like how the book develops quickly, but there aren't too many action scenes and entirely unexpected plot turns. It makes a rare combination of fast and realistic. The story is pretty much straightforward but there is never a dull moment, either. Unfortunately, that means the red herrings are easy to spot and the climax isn't quite as climactic as one would hope. And I suppose the book could have done without the crimes from the killer's point of view: they are far too sadistic for my taste and don't really tell anything that we don't find out from the crime scene descriptions. 

Can there be well written stereotypes? Because that is what these characters are. Their lives, though predictable, are very engaging, I have to admit. I liked Maggie Savage. McCabe, who apparently has a series in his name, didn't make much of an impression on me. He is clearly an all-round good guy, but I can make out little about him from this book. It is only when it comes to the rapport between Maggie and McCabe that I realize I'm missing something: the book doesn't work as a standalone if you focus on these two. The rest of the series might tell me more about them. I like Harlan Savage too, and I am curious about his character in the rest of the Maggie Savage-series. My favourite, most wonderfully portrayed character from Darkness First is Tabitha, the determined little girl who is so much more innocent than she lets on. 

I appreciate that the book doesn't end abruptly, right after the mystery is solved. The clarifications and follow-ups in the final chapter, which you'd call the denouement if you were pretentious and boring, work well. They certainly give you more to think about than the rest of the book. But the fact is, there is no real message to the book, nothing seems to have left a lasting impression on me. It's great, not amazing. It is an engrossing read, but I am not going to rush off to buy more. Read this if you love mysteries unconditionally!

Another R.I.P. Challenge read (another mystery; I haven't read enough horror this year!)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. Impulse is an exciting new imprint from William Morrow/HarperCollins publishing suspense and thriller digital originals. Get your hands on all Witness Impulse books here!

2 comments:

Viktoria Berg said...

"Can there be well written stereotypes?"

I would say, definitely, yes. Stereotypes, cliches, archetypes, whatever you call them, represent patterns of behaviour that we are all familiar with. They are like wheels to a story and do not need to be reinvented every time. Without them, we wouldn´t have a story at all. A really good writer builds on that and takes it a little bit further in some direction that is entirely unique to him/her, but even those who don´t can churn out a pretty good story just by being good craftsmen. Popular entertainment reads usually fall in the second category.

Priya said...

Viktoria - That is so true. :) This would still fall in the first category, despite the well written characters.

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