Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: Girl in the Dark

Kerry Hammond is here today to tell us about a Dutch author she recently discovered.

Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw is due to be released on February 16, 2016, in hardcover by William Morrow publishers. I have read books by Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, and German authors (translated into English of course) but have never come across a Dutch mystery author and was very intrigued. This book is her American debut, as it is the first to be translated into English. After reading it, I know that it won’t be the last.

The book is written, in alternating chapters, from two points of view. Iris is a single mom and a lawyer, who struggles with her young son’s behavioral issues. Everything changes one day when Iris learns she has a brother. Her mother, who has been secretive and controlling all her life, has never breathed a word of her sibling’s existence. In addition, her brother, who she now knows is named Ray, is in prison for brutally murdering his neighbor and her young daughter.

Ray is autistic and struggles with something most of us take for granted, communicating with other people and understanding their emotions. He can’t differentiate between frustrated and mad, for example, and he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to react to either unless someone specifically tells him. His entire time in prison, he worries about his fish in their saltwater aquarium, left at his mother’s house after his incarceration. These fish are his troubled mind’s obsession, and he recites the names of each one to calm himself when he gets angry. The reader follows Ray’s past through memories of events that led up to his conviction.

When Iris meets Ray, she doesn’t believe he could have committed the crime for which he is being punished, and she offers to help him with an appeal. She confronts her mother when she finds out about her brother and defiantly tells her of her intent to help him. Her mother is furious and insists that Iris doesn’t know what Ray is capable of. As events unfold, and we observe Ray’s behavior, it is unclear to the reader whether or not Ray really is capable of murder.

In a word, this book is riveting. The story was told at the perfect pace to keep me on the edge of my seat. Not in the same sense as a high-intensity thriller, though. It was an engrossing tale, told with such detail and a growing feeling of suspense, that I was compelled to continue and obsessed with finding out the truth. The conclusion was equal parts satisfying and shocking. I highly recommend this book.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

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