Written by Robin Burcell — Thinking of making inroads into the Christmas sherry? My advice is to put that bottle down, because you’ll need your wits about you if you’re going to make a start on The Dark Hour. For this is a densely plotted tale, and the action moves so fast, and jumps around from place to place so often, that you really need to concentrate fully.
Award-winning author Robin Burcell is an FBI-trained forensic artist, who has worked in law enforcement for over two decades as a police officer, detective and hostage negotiator, and this is her third novel featuring forensic artist and FBI agent Sydney Fitzpatrick. If, like me, you are a little woolly about what the role entails, let’s just say Sydney’s job is to make accurate drawings of suspects based on the recollections of witnesses. It’s like photofit compositing, but more realistic.
And, drawing pad in her hot little hand, that’s exactly what she’s called upon to do early in The Dark Hour. Sydney is sent to Amsterdam following a high profile killing, while back at home, the political world is rocked by the assassination of a prominent US senator. They are seemingly unrelated murders, but as parallel investigations begin, Sydney and her veritable host of supporting cast members find themselves in possession of compelling evidence of a shocking conspiracy to spread a plague of death right across the globe. As though that weren’t enough, Sydney’s Dutch trip leads to a sketch of a killer – and possible conspirator – who looks remarkably like a female CIA agent believed to have been killed in an explosion two years ago.
The murder of a key witness and the disappearance of the missing agent’s husband, covert government operative Zachary Griffin, puts Sydney in the thick of things, and she soon finds herself in a race against time to prevent a biological nightmare of astronomical proportions.
With me so far? Then treat yourself to a Quality Street, because you’re doing better than I was at this point. In truth, I found the all-guns-blazing, fast-and-furious style of this book a little too much for my taste and could only take it in short bursts. Sydney is a great central character and I particularly loved her way of thinking outside the box when things were going against her, but it was difficult to keep track of everyone involved in this complicated storyline. There were some stand-outs though, with Detective Carillo top of the pile, as far as this reader is concerned. Must be my crime fiction loving nature, but this straight-talking cop who believed in doing things the old school way stood head and shoulders above the undercover spy types who were at the heart of the sometimes overblown action scenes.
I’m prepared to give Robin Burcell another chance though. Apparently Sydney is back in another adventure early in 2013 and I’ll look forward to reviewing The Black List in due course. First though, I think I’ll give myself a little R&R. Now where’s that sherry bottle?
CFL Rating: 3 Stars