The Darker Side
A Smoky Barrett Mystery by Cody McFadyen
Review: FBI special agent Smoky Barrett and her team are on the trail of a ruthless serial killer dubbed the Preacher in The Darker Side, the third thriller in this series by Cody McFadyen.
Smoky is brought in when one of the victims is the estranged daughter of a potential Presidential candidate. She had been killed while on board a jet in mid-air with a sharp object thrust precisely into her heart. The killer's calling card was a silver cross placed in the wound, etched with a symbol and a number — 143. As Smoky points out, there is only one thing a killer counts. She's soon proved right; another victim is found just days later with a similar cross and the number 142 etched on it. But in an unusual twist, the killer starts posting information about his crimes on the internet, outlining the victims' sins. The Preacher, as Smoky comes to identify him, announces he's not through and the next victim will be a child. Smoky and her team are in a race against time to find the Preacher before he kills again.
The Darker Side is in many ways a riveting thriller. The writing is crisp, the characters clearly delineated, and plot well paced. What it lacks, somewhat ironically, is suspense. Smoky and her team don't lead so much as follow. The Preacher wants to be caught and leaves all sorts of clues as to where he is and how to find him. At one point he says as much. So while the book is definitely a page-turner (as it were), the direction it takes is not unexpected. In the end it's ever so slightly disappointing, that there wasn't a plot twist that might surprise the reader, and place it among the best in class.
The narrative might have been more tightly wound had there not been so many backstories. Some are clearly necessary; many are not. And the sin and redemption aspect is somewhat overwrought, especially towards the end among Smoky and her team. True, everyone has a deep seated secret, but it's simply too much to have so many of the recurring characters confess to theirs in one setting.
Still and all, The Darker Side is provocative, intense, and eminently enjoyable as a thriller.
Acknowledgment: Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting provided a copy of The Darker Side for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Darker Side: Los Angeles, California
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The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen — A Smoky Barrett Mystery
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.00