Steve Mosby- Dark Room

DI Andrew Hicks thinks he knows all about murder. For Hicks, however horrific the act, the reasons behind killing are ultimately all too explicable. So when a woman is found bludgeoned to death, he suspects a crime of passion and attention focuses on her possessive ex-husband. But when a second body is found, similarly beaten, Hicks is forced to think again about his suspect: the second victim is a homeless man with no links to the other woman. When more murders take place in quick succession, Hicks realises he is dealing with a type of killer he has never faced before, one who fits nowhere within his logic. Fear spreads, as the police search for patterns and reasons where none appear to exist. Then the letters begin to arrive. As the death toll rises, the threat gets closer to home. To survive, Hicks must face not only a killer obsessed with randomness and chaos, but also the secret in his own past. If he is to stop the killings, he must confront the truth about himself and the fact that some murders begin in much darker places than he ever imagined…

Steve Mosby ranks highly in my list of favourite crime authors having read all of his previous novels and ‘Black Flowers’ is one that I constantly recommend to crime readers. I can assure you that this, his latest, does not disappoint either!

 The key thing that sets Mosby apart, in my view, is his ability to avoid the obvious in his plotting so with each book you are immersed in a multi-stranded narrative which as a reader becomes more of a challenge as you seek to determine how these strands will meet together in the whole structure of the plot. One subject that defines the whole plot of ‘Dark Room’ is the theme of randomness, which is evident within the first few chapters and throughout the book. Instantly you are confronted with three completely unrelated plot lines which as the story develops, effectively have you wondering if there can possibly be any connection between them. The greater theme of randomness is developed within the central murder investigation as Detective Hicks and his colleagues are faced with the terrifying prospect of a completely indiscriminate killer whose choice of victim is so random that it completely disempowers their investigation where no discernable pattern or connection can be made between the killings- the essential key to tracking down a killer. The killer’s victims are different genders, ages, social class and so on, which then leads to an additional quandary on the part of the police as these crimes singularly defy the neat compartmentalising of the killer as a mass murderer or a serial killer. A mass murderer would suggest a completely random series of killings, but equally the team cannot ignore the possibility that these victims have been specifically targeted for reasons unknown and, however shrouded the selection of victim is, conform to some kind of pattern. Needless to say I cannot possibly reveal the outcomes of these plots but the pacing is perfectly controlled by Mosby to reel you in and keep you guessing as long as possible…

 Another aspect of this book I found particularly appealing was the depiction of Detective Hicks himself. I’m not a great fan of well-adjusted plods whose investigations progress smoothly and end up wrapped up in a nice neat parcel. Hicks is undergoing a fair amount of crisis in his personal life as his wife is pregnant, but their relationship has deteriorated to near breaking point as Hicks has his own deep-seated worries about the notion of bringing a child into the world, coloured by his own experiences as a child. He has the shadow of a previous case looming large over him during the course of the book and also finds himself in the uncomfortable position of a killer becoming his pen-pal. Hicks, despite the emotional baggage, proves himself to be a focused and smarter than average detective as he grapples with the notion of a killer who defies all existing patterns of behaviour whilst balancing the demands of being subject to his own personal crises. And further on the strength of characterisation, Hicks’ story is carefully interwoven with that of an elderly candle-maker Levchenko and his wife Jasmina whose personal grief is tangible throughout the plot due to the murder of their daughter and who are two beautifully realised yet understated characters adding much to our perception of Hicks as an individual and his emotional impulses.

 Overall a great read and if this proves to be the first Mosby you read I can guarantee it won’t be your last!

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  1. This sounds like a very interesting take on the multiple killer motif. I’m especially intrigued by the candle-maker and his wife. All too often authors don’t fully develop the secondary characters, and those two sound really interesting. Thanks for calling Mosby and his work to our attention.

  2. I haven’t read any of Mosby’s work but he is on my radar. I need to pick up a copy of one of his novels and give him a go.

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