A time to rejoice for all Lacey Flint fans. She is back in Sharon Bolton’s brand new thriller, The Dark, and I’m sharing my thoughts on the book today. My thanks to publisher Orion for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
ONCE, SHE SAVED HIS LIFE…
NOW, HE’LL TAKE HERS.
When a baby is snatched from its pram and cast into the river Thames, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint is there to prevent disaster. But who would want to hurt a child?
DCI Mark Joesbury has been expecting this. Monitoring a complex network of dark web sites, Joesbury and his team have spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as ‘incels’ or ‘involuntary celibates.’ Joesbury’s team are trying to infiltrate the ring of power at its core, but the dark web is built for anonymity, and the incel army is vast.
Pressure builds when the team learn the snatched child was just the first in a series of violent attacks designed to terrorise women. Worse, the leaders of the movement seem to have singled out Lacey as the embodiment of everything they hate, placing her in terrible danger…
My next confession will not comes as a great surprise to many of the blogs regular readers – this is the first Lacey Flint book I have read. But fluffing heck. What a place to start. Maybe I’d have got a little more out of some of Lacey and Mark Joesbury’s backstory if I had read the previous books but, trust me, there is more than enough info in the book to read it as a standalone, and if this story is anything to go by, a whole host of reasons why I’ll be making it my mission to go back and read the first four books which have been waiting patiently on my bookshelves for far too long.
This is one of those books where I want to say so much but I also don’t want to say too much as the beauty, and the impact, of the story is better felt as you read it yourself. Especially if you are a woman, or even any kind of a decent guy. This is a story which hovers somewhere between dark and twisted fiction and a tale of frightening authenticity that could I could all too easily seeing come to reality, and not just in the more extreme reaches of society. You only have to look back to headlines and divisions that served as a distraction from party gate in late April to understand how relevant this story still is. With characters who are all too easily recognisable from modern life, and taking a very dark and shocking look into the world of the ‘incel’, the involuntary celibate men who lurk in the shadows of the dark web blaming women (Foids), good looking men (Chads) and modern life for their obviously inexplicable ability to get their leg over – because let’s face it they are typically exactly the type of guy you want to take home to meet your family – there was so much about this book which made my blood boil but which also sent a chill down my spine.
The opening of the book seems to be somewhat of a diversion from the main story but it does soon become clear where the scene fits into the latest case that Mark and Lacey find themselves embroiled in. Although I know I’d have had a much clearer view of Lacey’s past had I read the other books first, I really did get to know her well over the course of the book, and the people around her, including DI Dana Tulloch and her partner Helen Rowley, journalist Emma Winter and Lacey’s ‘not quite or is he’ part time love interest, DCI Mark Joesbury. Sharon Bolton is so good at establishing character for new readers, without overloading fans of the series with too much of what they already know. I was really drawn to all of them, scared on their behalf as the sense of threat built and shocked by what came to pass. But I really love Lacey’s determination and focus, even in the most trying and potentially career, and life, ending set of circumstances.
There is a really intense vibe to this book. That undulating and sometimes very blatant sense of threat, and the often shocking and jaw-dropping actions that are taken by the antagonists in this book. That whole idea of women not being safe, of there being a target on their backs, is amplified to such a high degree that so many scenes are capable of making the skin crawl. The author touches on so many of the concerns felt by women in modern society, and the extreme and very archaic and damaging opinions of men who think like the incel community. I’d like to hope that some of the actions taken, some of the thought processes that were put forward in the battle against this very gender focused terrorist activity, were only ever to be part of a work of fiction, but I could all too easily picture the kinds of people who would cease upon such an opportunity to stop the already slow progress in equality that is happening in western culture. And that whole elitist superiority verses the disdainful representation of women rang all too true.
And that’s what makes the story that bit darker and all the more impactful. We know, from Twitter, Instagram or just modern media (and politics), that these people are out there. And if you cannot draw parallels between disgraced TV star turned wannabe politician Gus Lord and another, real life, infamous idiot who over shares their deluded opinions on Twitter, I’m going to assume you aren’t actually on Twitter.
I loved the tension, the dark edge and the fast pacing of this book, as well as the authenticity of the characters and real sense of mystery that kept the full motivation and the guilty party hidden right to the end. Be prepared and keep your eyes open. Looking back, I guess the clues are out there, hidden but available if you really want to look. But I think you may be too incensed to pay that close an attention, and the edge of the seat plotting my keep your focus diverted just enough for the rotten seed to remain hidden in plain sight. I’m definitely moving the first books in the series up my reading list now as I absolutely loved this book. Bit of a bombshell ending to be fair, but I’m hoping it’s not the last we’ve seen of Lacey. She’s one heck of a character.
A misogynist’s wet dream combined with a feminist’s (or really any living woman’s) nightmare but one heck of a high stakes thrill ride. Most definitely recommended.
About the Author
Sharon (formerly S J) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career in marketing and public relations. She gave it up in 2000 to become a mother and a writer.
Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark Award (part of the prestigious Edgars) in the US. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger, the Theakston’s Prize for Best Thriller, the International Thriller Writers’ Best First Novel award, the Prix Du Polar in France and the Martin Beck award in Sweden.