Review - Home Before Dark, Charles Maclean

Author: Charles Maclean
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Copyright: 2009
ISBN: 987-0-340-95150-7
No of Pages: 474

Book Synopsis:

About to close a major deal, Ed Lister is called to the phone. It's the news every parent dreads. His art-student daughter Sophie has been found brutally murdered in Florence.

Frustrated with the official police inquiry, Ed vows to find Sophie's killer. When his quest leads to a mysterious website, Ed hires a young cyber sleuth to track down the web-master, Ward - the most companionably lethal psychopath you could ever hope not to meet.

Book Review:

HOME BEFORE DARK is the first thriller from UK Author Charles Maclean. It's the story of a wealthy man, who had it all. A thriving business, a beautiful wife, doted on daughter. Until his daughter is murdered while studying in Florence. Frustrated by the slow and ineffectual police investigation, Ed Lister starts his own. Doing some of the investigating himself, he is led to a mysterious website, which prompts him to offer a million dollars to a computer expert in the quest to crack the weird online clues that seem to be trying to lead Ed forward.

HOME BEFORE DARK did seem to take a long time to get into. The early parts of the book, that setup the plot and give you an opening feeling for the characters - particularly Ed - didn't quite seem to work and there was definitely a feeling of having to consciously stay with the thing. Perhaps that is partially because this could be a film script in the making, with the conspicuously touristy settings (Florence / Paris / London / New York), and with elements of the action themselves - murder on a train seeming like the quintessential noir movie scene these days. Perhaps it is also because it could take the reader a little while to pick up on a couple of things - why our killer is present all the time, stalking, menacing; and that Ed is ultimately an unreliable narrator. Interestingly enough it is the pursuit of what it is that Ed is trying to hide that frequently becomes the focus, rather than the death of his daughter.

Being a thriller there are some elements of the plotline that readers will simply have to accept - the lack of police involvement in the investigation, a bit of male-jep (for a change), a psychopathic killer with a "history" and a husband with a guilty secret or two tucked away. Perhaps one of the things that remains with this reader the most about the book is the way that the women are all elusive. Ed's wife is around but not really involved; his daughter is dead and whilst mourned and seemingly the instigator of all the angst and pursuit, not discussed or fleshed out that much. The only female character that has much presence at all is a cyber-character who may not necessarily exist or even be female for that matter. There's also a few technology aspects that pushed the boundaries of credibility to stretching point, but let's face it, a thriller isn't necessarily bound by the rules of reality.

As a thriller, once the pace got moving and the story started to get complicated, HOME BEFORE DARK definitely got more interesting and ever so slightly creepy. Not exactly "leave the lights on for a week after you've finished it" frightening, and with some slight quibbles about some aspects of the book, fans of thrillers could find HOME BEFORE DARK an interesting twist on the unreliable narrator.

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