Book review: The Woman in Darkness by Charlie Donlea

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 Permalink

I’ve read and enjoyed Charlie Donlea’s first two books, The Girl Who Was Taken and Don’t Believe It and his latest is no different. In fact, I must admit if I have one gripe it would be that it was nearing its end far sooner than I wanted it to. I really did not want it to finish. (Which is rare for me nowadays as most books are longer than I’d like).

Each of Donlea’s other books has been a standalone but featuring such well-developed characters I ALWAYS find myself checking it’s not part of a series. I’m fairly sure I’d be happy to read more featuring each of the leads we’ve met, but Donlea manages to give them a story arc that – though brief – is completely fulfilling for the reader.

Book review: The Woman in Darkness by Charlie DonleaThe Woman in Darkness
by Charlie Donlea
Published by Bantam Australia
on April 2nd 2019
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9780143795155
Pages: 304

As a forensic reconstructionist, Rory Moore sheds light on cold-case homicides by piecing together details others fail to see. And while cleaning out her late father’s law office, she takes a call that plunges her into a forty-year-old mystery.

In the summer of 1979, five Chicago women went missing. The predator, nicknamed The Thief, left no bodies and no clues behind - until police received a package from a mysterious woman named Angela Mitchell, which uncovered his identity. But before police could question her, Angela disappeared.

Forty years later, The Thief is about to be paroled for Angela’s murder – the only killing the DA could pin on him. But a cryptic file found in her father’s office suggests to Rory there is more to the case than anyone knew.

Soon Rory is helplessly entangled in the enigma of Angela Mitchell and what happened to her. Drawing connections between the past and present, she uncovers dark truths about the reclusive woman, her own father, and the man called The Thief.

But not even Rory is prepared for the terrifying secrets about to emerge…

Rory is a great character and I loved everything about her, including her diffident relationship with lover Lane. There’s a strong similarity or synergy between Rory and Angela though the women lived in different times and were supported very differently. Rory’s parents catered to her quirks and ensured she had space and time to quell her social anxiety and calm her mind; whereas Angela’s parents locked away their daughter, diagnosed with OCD and autism.

The story predominantly unfolds from the points of view of Rory and Angela (in 2019 and 1979) so we get to know them pretty well.

Of course Angela’s nature means she’s details-focussed and like a dog with a bone, so when she thinks she sees a pattern in the series of murders she can’t let it go, even when she realises her own life is in danger.

But Angela knew she could not completely ignore the needs of her mind and the demands of her central nervous system, which screamed for her to organize and list and break down the things that made no sense. She saw things as either straight and ordered with sharp, ninety-degree angles, or in complete disarray. The calls of her mind to piece together in rigid order anything that did not line up smoothly had always been loud and impossible to ignore. But lately, those screams had been deafening. The idea that there was a man who had eluded the police, and who had thrown the city into a state of paralysis, was the very definition of chaos. And ever since Angela had allowed her fierce and unrelenting psyche to consider this man, whom the authorities called The Thief, she had been able to think of nothing else. p  37

As well as great characters Donlea offers up a really tight and intriguing plot. He also places us in the head of the murderer so we know they’ve been captured but for a while we’re not told of their identity. And even when we are, there are still questions. We readers are able to piece the mystery together before Rory, but not before lives are lost. And I certainly didn’t see a couple of the major twists coming for some time.

As well as not wanting it to end, I would have liked more on the original – more recent – murder case Rory is given in her role as a a forensic reconstructionist. It’s not referred to in the blurb but offered as part of her work as a police consultant. I suspected it would tie in with the case she inherits from her father, though I guess it allows a bit of a link to her (now dementia-plagued) great aunt who’s offered Rory clarity and peace of mind… though the book ends before Rory starts on the case.

I’d like to think Donlea might bring her back for that (or perhaps to pursue cases with her lover who heads up a serial killer prediction project), but sadly suspect it won’t be the case.

The Woman in Darkness by Charlie Donlea was published in Australia by Bantam (Penguin) and now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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