Review

In the Dark

by Brian Freeman

Within a relatively short time, Brian Freeman has amassed an
enviable list of nominations and awards in the mystery and thriller
fields. He takes some chances in his latest novel, departing from
the tried-and-true elements of his previous works even as he
returns to the familiar scenery of Duluth, Minnesota, and Detective
Jonathan Stride.

IN THE DARK focuses on events that took place primarily in
Stride’s distant past, but that threaten to jar the relative
complacency of the present. The catalyst arrives in the form of
Tish Verdure, a journalist who comes to Duluth to research a book
that deals with an event that in some ways shaped Stride’s
life and career. Some 30 years ago, Stride was at the beginning of
the summer before his senior year of high school, a time when he
fell in love with Cindy Starr, the woman he would later marry and
tragically lose to cancer. What we also learn is that it was the
summer when Cindy’s sister, Laura, would be brutally murdered
by an unknown killer. Tish claims to have been Laura’s best
friend, though Stride can barely remember her from high school and
has no recollection of the two of them ever being close.

Tish believes she knows the identity of Laura’s murderer,
placing the blame squarely at the feet of Peter Stanhope, a local
attorney whose family has represented wealth and power in the
Duluth area for decades. The accusation creates a complication for
Stride from a number of perspectives. His relationship with
Stanhope has never been warm and fuzzy; Stanhope is a major
political supporter of the local District Attorney; and Serena
Dial, Stride’s significant other, is weighing an offer of the
extremely lucrative position as Stanhope’s private
investigator. The fact that Stride’s predecessor as chief may
have covered up Stanhope’s potential involvement in
Laura’s killing doesn’t help matters, either.

Stride’s plate is already full. A peeping Tom is
terrorizing local high school girls, and when an episode results in
a horrifying incident, Stride’s investigation indicates there
may well be ties between the voyeur and the murder that took place
decades before.

IN THE DARK begins more slowly than does its predecessors, with
its initial pacing just a bit off as the narrative goes back and
forth in time, filling in some portions of Stride’s past that
have influenced and informed his present. About a third of the way
through, however, Freeman lobs a king-size bomb into the book that
is as surprising as it is shocking, and from there he never looks
back. The majority of the novel reminded me of some dark, unlikely
collaboration between Raymond Chandler and Erskine Caldwell, as
Freeman, practically to the very end, takes the plot into
unanticipated places. The result will keep readers jumping, waiting
for what surprise --- or disaster --- will come next.

IN THE DARK may not contain any loose ends to encourage readers
to pick up Freeman’s next volume, but that’s not
necessary. The strong plot and characterization, as well as past
works in the Stride mythos, will keep readers anticipating --- and
returning to --- future works for some time to come.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

In the Dark
by Brian Freeman

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 031236332X
  • ISBN-13: 9780312363321