Darkness All Around
Review: Doug Magee's second stand-alone, Darkness All Around, has as its premise an intriguing storyline, but is not sufficiently engaging to capture and maintain much interest in how it all turns out.
Set in rural Pennsylvania, the book opens with the murder of a young woman, Carol, and the disappearance of a local man, Sean, who is married to Carol's best friend Risa. Fast forward long enough for Risa to have Sean declared dead, and to have remarried. Though Sean was not a suspect in Carol's death, he has visions of Carol and wants to know why he is compelled after all these years to remember what happened to her and seeks out those who were around at the time to help him understand why he thinks he may have, indeed, murdered Carol.
If one wants to designate, or latch on to, a single character as the investigator for in this murder mystery, it is Henry Saltz, a reporter for the local paper. He was dispatched to the scene of Carol's murder, and even years later is still haunted by the sight of the severely slashed body. Sean's return has reopened a story he thought he finished yet not completely forgotten about. "This time it was the mystery of it all. The case, in the course of five days, had gone from a neat package in a file drawer to a ragged, unkempt mess hopping around his office, a new discovery every day."
But the story never really comes together in a satisfactory manner. The ending is deftly handled, but much of what precedes it is a slow-paced muddled mess. At times this book is solidly romantic suspense; at other times the characters seem to be in amateur sleuth mode, investigating a decade-old murder; still at other times the narrative is in a noirish state that tries to be atmospheric and foreboding but is neither. Elements — maybe too many elements — of a crime novel are present here, but the potential of Darkness All Around to be a winning novel of suspense is never realized.
Acknowledgment: Touchstone provided an ARC of Darkness All Around for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Never Wave Goodbye
Touchstone (Hardcover), June 2010
ISBN-13: 9781439153987; ISBN-10: 1439153981
Location(s) referenced in Darkness All Around: Pennsylvania
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Darkness All Around by Doug Magee
Publication Date: October 2011
List Price: $25.00