Written by Becky Masterman — It’s a dangerous thing, retiring from the FBI, especially when you spent most of your time there working deep under cover. In a nutshell, that’s the history of Brigid Quinn, a character who first appeared in Masterman’s acclaimed debut novel Rage Against the Dying. I’ll admit to not having read that book, but Fear the Darkness is peppered with shots of back story so I never felt at a disadvantage.
So, what do I mean by ‘dangerous’? Well, having lived on her nerves for so long, Brigid is now enjoying a nearly normal existence in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband Carlo. Never given the chance to get close to people before, she is slowly settling into married life and has even acquired a BFF, Mallory Hollinger, and two pug dogs. Things seems to be going along swimmingly until the death of Brigid’s sister-in-law, Marylin, after a long illness. Brigid had made a promise to Marylin and it’s one that she intends to keep. But will the decision to offer a home to her niece Gemma-Kate until the teenager starts at university in a few months’ time come back to haunt her?
The trouble is that Brigid has let her guard down, big time, and although she still dabbles in a bit of private detective work, she has gone all soft. Big, big mistake. Readers are given a red flag from the off, as the book begins with a prologue which sees our heroine trapped in a confined space, hypothermic and fighting for her life. But who put her there, and will she live to tell the tale? Masterman takes a good long while to answer those questions.
So to backtrack to the start of the story proper, Brigid is settling into life in a fairly close-knit community, going to church with her husband, taking long, leisurely lunches with Mallory and walking the dogs. Throwing a teenager into the mix throws the balance off, and when one of the pugs is poisoned, Brigid is certain that it was no accident and becomes more and more suspicious of Gemma-Kate. Then there’s a mass poisoning after church one Sunday and Brigid can hold her counsel no longer. Should she turn her niece in to the local police?
Meantime, a local youngsters has drowned in suspicious circumstances, and the boy’s grieving mother asks Brigid to look into the death which was treated as suicide by the police. There are some aspects of the case that don’t add up for Brigid, but as she begins to suffer increasingly worrying health issues it is clear that her focus is beginning to slip.
As you may have gathered from the above, there are myriad story strands in this cat’s cradle of a plot and there are times when the knots seem impossible to undo. I was expecting a lot from this book and was ultimately a little disappointed that it didn’t engage me more, particularly in the opening chapters. In fact, I spent the first half of the story in two minds about whether I’d bother to stay to the end, but things did improve somewhat after that and I stayed the course. The problem is that Brigid was such a warrior in the past, that I found it difficult to believe she has gone to pot so quickly. She is far too trusting for someone with her background and more than once you’ll feel like grabbing her and giving her a good shake.
Fear the Darkness goes on sale 5 February.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars