Trick of the Dark
Review: Clinical psychiatrist Charlotte "Charlie" Flint receives a mysterious envelope with newspaper clippings about a recent murder, an open-and-shut case as far as she knows, that draws her into an investigation about the dead man in Trick of the Dark, a stand-alone novel by Val McDermid.
When her expert testimony concludes that a murder suspect couldn't possibly have committed the crime, which eventually leads to his freedom, only to have him kill again, Charlie is suspended, her reputation destroyed. With plenty of time on her hands now, she decides to look into who sent her the clippings, only to discover that the dead man's wife is the daughter of her former tutor and mentor at Oxford, someone who is clearly, if surreptitiously, asking for her help. And though she is presently in a relationship with someone, Oxford happens to be where her new love lives, giving Charlie the opportunity to not only spend her time more productively but also to explore how committed she is to her current life.
Some may believe that Trick of the Dark is disappointing more due to unmet expectations than anything particular to the novel itself … though it has all sorts of problems itself. For starters, it's hardly a crime novel or thriller and barely passes as a novel of suspense, something most readers might expect given the author's well-deserved reputation in this genre … yet there are certainly elements present to suggest that it could have been. Which leads to the second major problem with the book, that it has an unfinished feel to it. Or maybe it's so thinly plotted that it just seems this way. The characters are well defined and drawn as are their relationships, but there are too many points of view and far too much interpersonal drama, so much so that it interferes with what little mystery there is; indeed it becomes the story. For example, the hint of intrigue to come for Charlie that is presented early in the book is so overshadowed by her angst over her love triangle that it's easy to forget how and why she is drawn into her investigation. Charlie, of course, is determined to "solve" the case in order to redeem herself, both in her own eyes and those of her colleagues and friends, but this aspect of the story, too, never really comes together in a satisfactory manner. In short, for readers looking to Trick of the Dark as a crime novel, there is little to recommend here other than to seek out the author's previous work, any of which is far superior to this undistinguished effort.
Acknowledgment: Bywater Books provided an ARC of Trick of the Dark for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
A Darker Domain
Harper (Hardcover), January 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061688980; ISBN-10: 0061688983
Location(s) referenced in Trick of the Dark: Oxford, England
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Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid
Publisher: Bywater Books
Publication Date: September 2011
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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