The Black Road
My personal jury is still out as to whether or not reincarnation actually occurs. If it does, I don’t want to come back as a character in one of Tania Carver’s novels. Carver is the author of the increasingly popular Brennan and Esposito series, of which there are currently six in print in Great Britain. The fourth of these, THE BLACK ROAD (published under the title CHOKED across the ocean), has been released here, and contains enough injury, maiming and death for three novels. Oh, and sex as well. Naturally, I loved every word of it.
THE BLACK ROAD begins, following a short and enigmatic preamble, with a bang. Literally. Phil Brennan, a detective supervisor of the Major Incident Squad, and his wife, criminologist Marina Esposito, are on holiday with Josephina, their three-year-old daughter, and Brennan’s parents when their cottage explodes. When the dust settles and the smoke clears, Brennan’s father is dead, his mother is injured, and Brennan himself is in a coma. Esposito is relatively unscathed, physically at least. Emotionally, though, she is a wreck, and understandably so, for Josephina cannot be found.
"THE BLACK ROAD...contains enough injury, maiming and death for three novels. Oh, and sex as well. Naturally, I loved every word of it."
While Brennan is at the hospital awaiting word on her husband’s condition, she receives a mysterious and terrifying telephone call, advising her that the unknown caller has Josephina, and that the only way Esposito will ever see her again is if she does exactly as the caller instructs. Over the course of a four-day Easter weekend that is anything but celebratory, Esposito will find herself following a set of enigmatic instructions that ultimately lead her back to her very first case, when a young man was convicted of a crime he did not commit and is now the pawn in an elaborate scheme for revenge and enrichment. Meanwhile, an extremely strange and very dangerous couple are in pursuit of the plotters, with the police on Esposito’s trail as she becomes a suspect in the very case in which she herself is a most innocent victim.
The action plays out across the British countryside, with everything from an (almost) unstoppable enforcer to a very interesting criminal co-plotter in the mix. In the midst of it all is Esposito, who is absolutely determined to locate and rescue her daughter, no matter what price she has to pay. Bet on Esposito, but not anything else.
While THE BLACK ROAD does require a bit of suspension of disbelief at times, Carver’s ability to keep things rolling is such that you’ll never even notice when your b.s. detector kicks in: you’ll be having too good a time with all of the oddball and frightening characters to really care. And at the end of the day, those characters are extremely believable. They’re the type that you shy away from on the park bench and at the bus stop, and for good reason. You may not personally know anyone like some of the folks here, but you’ve almost certainly encountered them at one point or another, however briefly, if you’re living in any sort of proximity to a varied range of people.
That is but one of many reasons you’ll have to read THE BLACK ROAD without stopping, and to leave the lights on at night once you’ve finished --- at least for a while anyway. And carve out some time to catch up on Carver’s backlist, if you haven’t already.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 15, 2014