This Little Dark Place

Written by A.S. Hatch

Review written by Jonathan Moore

JONATHAN MOORE is an attorney with the Honolulu firm of Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda. Before completing law school in New Orleans, he was an English teacher, the owner of Taiwan’s first Mexican restaurant, and an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. He is the author of two previous novels, Close Reach and Redheads, which was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award.


This Little Dark Place
Profile Books / Serpent's Tail
RRP: £12.99
Released: October 10, 2019
Hbk

Dark and then some!

Set in a once prosperous north-west UK fishing town, where the Common Fisheries Policy is blamed for its decline, Brexit and the referendum looming large, as a backdrop to tragedy and horror. The fractures in society leading to the result and caused by it are all too obvious.

Dan, a talented carpenter and Vic (Victoria) are young, in love and trying unsuccessfully for a baby.  A round of IVF leads to a miscarriage with devastating results for their relationship.  Dan seeks solace in writing to a convicted female prisoner through a ‘pen-pal’ scheme and Vic seeks to forget through her guru and personal trainer.  

Dan’s childhood and an abusive and controlling stepfather are recurring motifs in this novel and are mirrored in his female prison pen-pal’s adult life and experience.  The letters are confessional in nature and enable the author to explore the lasting damage done to his characters.

In charting the ruin of Vic and Dan’s relationship, the stage is set for the darkness to deepen further with a move to an isolated cottage, intended as a ‘new start’ but instead heralding a new chapter in suspicion, mistrust and some chilling scenes all heightened by some judicious  ‘false security’ devices. When the newly released pen-pal arrives, the twists intensify!

Part narrative, part epistolary novel, another set of parallels is established, through the letters. One set of correspondence runs from 2013-2016 and another in 2033. The reason for this strange shift from one narrated present to another only becomes fully clear in the last few pages.

I found the structure confusing at first and it was only finally (and I suspect intentionally) cleared up at the dénouement. The book keeps you reading even though questions are brimming over and deliberately not being answered that forces the pace.  What seems obvious is often quite the opposite and some considerable narrative skill is demonstrated.

A better knowledge of police powers, trial processes, judicial rules and the role of solicitors vs. barristers would enhance some of the set scenes, at least for me, but overall, this is a compelling read, exploring what the average person is capable of doing to another and the consequences for them and for others.  A psychological chiller, par excellence!



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