Book Title: IN THE DARK
Author: Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little & Brown
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0070-9
No of Pages: 370

Book Synopsis:

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...

Book Review:

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.

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Comment by Karen from AustCrime on June 4, 2010 at 1:00pm
Thank you for that pointer Dana, that was really really interesting.
Comment by Dana King on June 4, 2010 at 12:42pm
Billingham was robbed at gunpoint once, a true "do what we say or die" scenario. I asked him how it affected his writing, and he said it taught him m to pay attention to the victims, not just to use them because you need a body to solve a crime.

If you're interested, the interview is here.
Comment by Karen from AustCrime on June 4, 2010 at 9:16am
Dana - I'm hearing very positive things about his latest book - which I have to know get hold off. I will never forget his first book - Sleepyhead though. The way he gave us a victim's perspective in that book was outstanding.
Comment by Dana King on June 4, 2010 at 2:49am
I was lucky enough to be asked to review IN THE DARK when it first came out. I agree with your assessment completely. It's a wonderful book, much more than "just" a thriller. I know Billingham's other books are serial killer stories, and I don;t usually care for them, but I liked this so much I'll probably give him a tumble.

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