Book Title: IN THE DARK
Author: Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little & Brown
No of Pages: 370
A rainy night in London. Shots are fired into a car which swerves on to the pavement and ploughs into a bus stop. It seems that an act of casual gang violence has cost an innocent victim their life. But the reality is even more chilling...
If somebody could explain to me what I did with my common-sense I'd be very grateful. I have this list of favourite authors, and a tendency to hoard their books. Makes no sense whatsoever when I think about it, but IN THE DARK got caught in the daftness and lurked on the shelves here for much much longer than it should have.
A standalone novel, IN THE DARK is a thriller with an unexpected scenario and an interesting twist. As the blurb outlines, there's a car crash in the night. A driver is forced off the road, into a bus stop. A man (in this case a policeman) is dead. His partner, a policewoman, wants to know why. Why him, what was he doing just before he died, who on earth was the man she thought she knew, how will she explain who he was and what happened to their very soon to be born child.
IN THE DARK is not just the story of her investigation into her partner's death, it's also very much a story about relationships, complications, unfinished business and how people deal with grief. You can just about taste Helen's desperation to do something, investigate, find the truth, anything rather than just sit and grieve for her partner. As she acknowledges an affair she has had, and the affect that it had on their partnership, she also starts to realise that there are things about Paul that she may not know. Despite a very advanced pregnancy she doesn't want to let it go, let other's seek the truth, her policewoman's instinct is too strong, and her need to be involved overwhelming. What stays with me still after I've finished reading this book is the way that Billingham has written such a finally balanced portrayal of this woman. The other thing that has stayed is how sudden death can leave such an emotional minefield behind.
That's not to say that this book isn't a thriller at the same time. The investigation has a pace of it's own, which is enhanced by the knowledge that as Helen's baby is due very soon, her deadline is immovable. Interspersed with Helen's search for the truth there are other stories, other people involved that night. The impact of gangs and crime is an angle which is explored, but interestingly not completely demonised.
Combine a lot of elements that worked really well as the story progressed, with some final twists and turns as the book draws to a close, and this was one of those excellent thrillers that really makes you stop and think. Serves me right for taking so long to read IN THE DARK. Note to self: try not to make the same mistake with the next book - series or not.