BOOKLIGHT May reviewA GRIPPING NEW TALE OF SUSPENSE SET IN THE TWIN PORTS Brian Freeman’s new novel, “In the Dark.”
By: Ellen Baker, Living North Magazine
If you’re looking for a good new gritty mystery, look no further than Brian Freeman’s new novel, “In the Dark.” “In the Dark” is a followup to Freeman’s earlier three books, “Immoral,” “Stripped,” and “Stalked,” features the same hero, Lieutenant Jonathan Stride and, like the others, is set right here in the Twin Ports.
“In the Dark” finds Jonathan Stride confronted with a sort of a ghost – a woman he went to high school with who left town 30 years before and now returns looking eerily like Stride’s wife, Cindy, who died some years before of cancer. The woman, Tish Verdure, announces that she’s working on writing a book about a murder that took place 30 years earlier – Cindy’s sister, Laura, was beaten to death with a baseball bat on the night of July 4, 1977, in a park on the shore of Lake Superior.
Stride is torn. He’s been haunted by the murder for 30 years – he was in the same park the night it happened, and, later, watched as the vagrant suspected of the crime rode a train out of town. It was the reason why he became a cop. But he isn’t sure, either, whether he wants to dig up all these old memories, when the odds of the case finally being solved seem slim at best.
Tish gives him no choice – she’s bound and determined that she will write her book, and that, in the process, she’ll uncover new evidence to solve the case. Unsure of the source of her determination, Stride becomes involved, somewhat unwittingly, but as the case gathers momentum, Tish receives anonymous threats from someone who clearly doesn’t want her nosing around in the old case. A current peeping tom incident in West Duluth begins to seem strangely connected, and some shocking facts about Stride’s late wife come to light. He, too, becomes determined to see it through, hoping that finally solving Laura’s murder will provide him the closure and the answers he so desperately needs.
This book has everything a good mystery should have and more, and overcomes a slightly slow start to become completely amazing. There are deft and surprising twists, compellingly rich characters with consequential pasts, and an awesome race to the finish that left me almost breathless, as all the pieces to the puzzle come together to perhaps the most exciting mystery climax I’ve ever read – a deadly confrontation in the middle of the High Bridge. There’s traffic, fog, people fighting and falling over the rail … I don’t see how it could get any better than that! I also found myself really caring about the characters along the way, and, for all the excitement of the plot’s twists and turns, the book has an emotional impact as well.
In general, local readers will enjoy the many references to familiar places, as well as the careful attention Freeman pays to the area’s geography and culture, with only a few minor localism slip-ups. There are also cameo appearances by real people you may recognize. (Imagine my surprise when my former manager at J.W. Beecroft Books & Coffee provides a piece of information to Stride that is a turning point in the case!) With Freeman’s excellent books being sold in 46 countries and 17 languages, he’s bound to put Duluth/Superior on the world map.
Ellen Baker is the author of “Keeping the House: A Novel,” now
available in paperback. She lives in northeastern Minnesota,
where she is at work on her second novel.
Visit her Web site at www.ellenbakernovels.com.