By Fiona Cummins
Publisher/Year: Pan Macmillan Australia/2022
One late autumn morning, Piper’s best friend arrives at Seawings to discover an eerie scene – the kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, the cars are in the garage. But the house is deserted.
In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words:
What happens next?
Reviewer: Natalie Conyer
Here’s some advice. If you run into a character from Into the Dark – any character – walk away. Fast. They’re up to no good, all of them, harbouring secrets and hatching plans that make Machiavelli look like an amateur.
The set-up is terrific. One late autumn morning in Midtown-on-Sea, a town somewhere in Britain, Julianne Hillier sets off to pick up her best friend, Piper Holden, for a morning run. She knocks, but Piper isn’t there and neither are her husband and children, though their phones and belongings are. Also, there’s blood on the chandelier and as we find out later, a message written in blood on Piper’s daughter’s bedroom mirror. It reads MAKE THEM STOP.
The police are called and Detective Constable Saul Anguish (good name, eh?) and forensic linguist, Dr Clover March, take part in the investigation. It’s Saul’s first day on the job and he and Dr Marsh – whom he nicknames ‘Blue’ – grow close.
The plot unfolds in a series of short, choppy chapters, hopping between different points of view, including from Julianne, her daughter Emilie, Piper, her daughter Riva, husband Gray, and Saul. Chapters toggle between points before and after the Holdens’ disappearance and slowly we are drawn into what really happened and why. It’s an effective structure, well-managed.
Management is needed, because Into the Dark has a great many moving parts. The cover blurb, by Ian Rankin, reads Breathless plotting and twist after twist. That’s an understatement. It’s too complicated to go into here and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m on top of all the elements. Just know that everyone – good guys and bad, parents and children, in partnership and individually – all of them have secrets and are doing their thing and definitely not in socially acceptable ways.
Into the Dark is over the top. The book’s opening quote reads Women are equal to anything, but this isn’t a feminist novel. It’s a dark romp. It’s a fast read and you’ll enjoy it if you suspend belief and leave critical judgment at the door.