When an elderly woman is found murdered in her own home in the sleepy village of Shipcott, local policeman Jonas Holly begins to investigate. A team of detectives soon arrive to take over the case, however, and Jonas finds himself pushed into the background. As the snow falls in Shipcott and tension builds in the village, the killer strikes again and again. Then Jonas himself starts to receive anonymous notes taunting him for his incompetence and he begins to grow concerned that his wife, Lucy, could be in danger…
Darkside is the second novel by crime writer Belinda Bauer. After finding her first book, Blacklands, so impressive when I read it last year I was looking forward to reading this one – and I wasn’t disappointed. But this is a different type of crime novel – while Blacklands featured a highly original plot involving a child killer communicating with a young boy from his prison cell, Darkside is more of a traditional murder mystery.
I hadn’t realised that this book was going to be set in the same village as the previous novel so it was a nice surprise to see one or two old friends making a brief reappearance. However, both books do stand alone and Darkside is not really a sequel. It’s set four years later, the plot is entirely different and the focus is on a new group of characters. The only thing the two novels really have in common is the setting. And the setting, by the way, is one of the strong points of both books. Shipcott feels like a real English village and its inhabitants are so realistic they feel like they really could be the people you live or work with. I love the world Belinda Bauer has created and I’m glad she decided to revisit it.
Jonas Holly was an interesting character. We are told that as a young police officer he had once been very ambitious, but had given up his hopes of career advancement to care for his beloved wife, Lucy, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I thought Bauer’s portrayal of their relationship, with both husband and wife trying to come to terms with Lucy’s diagnosis, was very moving and believable. The other person with whom we spend a lot of time is the head of the murder investigation, DCI Marvel, one of those obnoxious characters who, despite being completely unlikeable, is great to read about.
The only slight problem I had with this book was that the ending felt very dramatic and didn’t really match the tone of the rest of the story. But I didn’t guess who the murderer was until near the end, so it worked in that respect. Looking back the clues were there, but I didn’t pick up on them straight away as I had expected the killer to be someone entirely different to who it actually turned out to be! I loved this gripping novel and can’t wait to see what Belinda Bauer’s next book is like.