Sunday, May 17, 2009

In The Dark, A Review

     From time to time, I'd like to give a heads-up on a book I've just read and thought well of. So here's a short review of IN THE DARK, by Brian Freeman.

     This story is one hell of a train ride. Thirty years before, on a Fourth of July night in Duluth, young Jonathan Stride first made love to his future wife, Cindy. On the same night, and nearby, Cindy's sister Laura was murdered. The case never was solved.   Now, Stride is a police detective, still in Duluth. Cindy died of cancer several years ago, and Stride lives with policewoman Serena Dial. He's happy in his new life, but can't get the unsolved murder out of his mind.
     Enter Tish Verdure, Laura Starr's best friend in high school. She's returned to Duluth, intending to write a book about the troubling case. The more Tish snoops around, the more clear it becomes that  she's threatening someone. A brain-damaged teen-aged girl drowns. Is there a connection?
     The plot is fast-paced and intelligent, and suspense is unrelenting. Nothing seems contrived. Characters are very well drawn, with flaws for the good guys and sympathetic points for the baddies. Dialogue is realistic, never cliched. Though there's abundant difficult material, including brutal use of a baseball bat, extreme child abuse, incest, voyeurism, and death of a very sympathetic character, the author manages to make none of it gratuitous or sensationalistic. Most of the actual tough stuff occurs off-stage. And the bittersweet ending is right on.  The nature of many of the characters is underscored by the striking (sometimes bleak) surroundings and harsh weather of northern Minnesota and North Dakota. This story wouldn't work in a temperate setting.
     Of the many arresting lines in the book, here's my favorite: Stride is talking to his former high-school geometry teacher about the two cases he's investigating: Laura's murder and the drowning of the teen-aged girl. He says he remembers the parallel postulate from geometry class: If two lines cross a third and form less than two right angles, then eventually the two lines will meet if extended far enough. "It's something I find in most of my investigations," Stride says. "Sooner or later, the lines always intersect."
     I have one question (not a spoiler). When a body is found out-of-doors, after a drenching rainstorm, the police discover semen at the site, but not right next to the body. Can someone enlighten me on how the cops might have been able to notice/discover this?

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