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DARKNESS–“Recurring Nightmares”

October 20, 2011

Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger

Crown Publishers, 2012

364 pages, $24 (hardcover)

There are two types of characters in this haunting, beautifully titled novel: those who have experienced loss—a wife, job, parent, boyfriend, child—and people looking for answers (usually below the surface). The chapters read like interconnected, short stories and the mood throughout is tangibly dark. It all takes place in “The Hollows” where there are hidden tunnels of abandoned iron mines. Talk about setting as metaphor!

There are a few too many characters, though their situations parallel and work together to build a suspenseful mystery that seems genuine on each level. Literary, but more real than that. We are the retired detective, Jones Cooper, trying to find himself as well as the plot’s resolution. It is a communal dream that takes on subjects too difficult to handle directly (so the author turns to fiction to tell the truth—as we do with dreams). And what do we, the readers get. If nothing else the ability once again to sleep.

I do have a quarrel with the ending. 1) It is a new kind of dues ex machine, in which someone’s blocked memory that has misdirected the reader, is unblocked. 2) The revelation, does not come in the climactic scene (in the woods during a downpour). How it could, I don’t know, but that is where it belongs. And finally, 3) the retired narrator goes through a catharsis in that wet, river scene but it isn’t really clear. The author is too busy setting him up for subsequent books in the series (where presumably we will get answers). Whatever the reason, the last 30 or 40 pages just don’t deliver on the promise of the rest of the book. And, Lisa, you make us want that so much.

Buy directly from Amazon for $13.04. Click here: Darkness, My Old Friend: A Novel

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