The basics: When Brigid's sister-in-law dies, she agrees to let her seventeen-year-old daughter Gemma-Kate move from Florida and live with her (and her husband Carlo.) Around the same time, she agrees to investigate the somewhat suspicious drowning death of a fourteen-year-old boy. Also, things start seeming off with Brigid's own mind and body.
My thoughts: There are essentially three mysteries at the center of Fear the Darkness. First: what is wrong with Brigid? Second: was Joe's death in the pool an accident, a suicide or a homicide? Third: is Gemma-Kate a psychopath. All of these storylines are interesting at times, but none of them seem to move along particularly quickly. The only running theme is that things are perhaps not quite what they seem, but is anything actually happening?
It's clear to the reader that Brigid is being poisoned in some way. She narrates this novel from the vague future, when the novel's events have culminated. Given her knowledge, the novel reads awkwardly. Why is Brigid not sharing the things she knows now? Obviously she's waiting for a big reveal, but it made much of the novel feel unnecessary. As a reader, I find it incredibly frustrating to have a narrator who is not terribly smart, unless there is a compelling narrative reason for it. In Fear the Darkness, it was an exercise in frustration:
"Oh, and before I move on, do I need to remind anyone that if my brain hadn't been fried by the drugs, I could figured all this out without [redacted]'s help?"No, Brigid, you don't. The readers' brains aren't being fried by drugs; they're being fried by boredom. I'm being harsh on Brigid (and by extension Masterman.) I know it, but I'm not sorry. Here's why: Rage Against the Dying was a fantastic debut, and Masterman is capable of much better storytelling. But the real kicker is this: the resolution and reveals in Fear the Darkness are good. I guessed much of them, but once Brigid finally started figuring things out, this book got really good. When I finished this uneven, frustrating, and compelling novel, I kept thinking there has to be a better way to tell this story to make it more compelling and less frustrating.
Favorite passage: "The thing with really smart people, though, is they often underestimate the rest of us."
The verdict: The resolution of this novel was interesting enough to merit three stars, but the set-up was long, frustrating and arduous. An unwittingly feeble Brigid Quinn was more frustrating than compelling. There are some really good parts to this novel, but I fear the boring parts more than the darkness.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Fear the Darkness from Amazon (Kindle edition.) Better yet: buy Rage Against the Dying from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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