Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it.
Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.
Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. Finding the truth will mean seeing a side to the city where life and death is a game played by the powerful, where everyone is lost but nothing is missing and where the all the answers are hiding, if only they listen to the whispers on the streets.
Shot through with love and loss, ghosts and grief, A K Benedict weaves a compelling mystery that will leave you looking over your shoulder and asking what lurks in the dark. (Goodreads)
This book has two plotlines running through it, with the main one involving Maria King, a young blind woman who wears a blindfold and is accompanied by her guide dog, Billy. She enjoys trawling the beaches for hidden treasures, but is not prepared for her latest find – a woman’s severed finger with an engagement ring attached. Also enclosed is a proposal to Maria, with the implication that she will be with her mystery man sooner rather than later. When it turns out that the finger belongs to a murdered young woman, the police soon put Maria into protective custody in a desperate bid to save her from her stalker.
The detective in charge of the case is Jonathan Dark, a man who is in the midst of a marriage breakdown and is desperate to nail this case. He failed to protect the previous victim, and is determined to protect Maria with all he’s worth. It soon becomes clear that the stalker has been watching her for some time, and it will take great smarts to ensure she stays safe. When more messages start cropping up, the police are soon aware that they only have a matter of days before the killer strikes again, heaping yet more pressure upon their shoulders.
What doesn’t help the situation is the second ongoing plotline, which sees Jonathan Dark alerted to the presence of ghosts in London, and that their whispers might lead him to the right places. He doesn’t want to believe it at first, but there might be a bigger network linking these crimes together than he could have ever imagined, and only the ghosts know the truth. This might sound somewhat farfetched, but eventually both of these plotlines interlink and a satisfactory conclusion to the mysteries is reached.
I must admit that this was not one of my favourite crime novels to read, as the action felt a little jumbled and difficult to put together. There were moments when the scene would shift part way through and I was genuinely confused as to where the plot had leapt to, as the change seemed so abrupt. I think part of this was down to the integration of the ghost storyline, as there seemed to be so much to explain regarding their existence that several segments were bogged down in detail and didn’t help the plot to move forward. It also wasn’t completely clear whether the ghosts had much to do with Maria’s case, or whether this was purely to weave a separate mystery to cast doubt on the police force.
I wasn’t overly enamoured with Jonathan as a protagonist either, as he seemed proficient at his job yet fairly clueless when it came to other people. His wife has cheated on him, but he still seems desperate to get her back and even resorts to mild stalking himself, whilst he draws closer to Maria despite knowing he shouldn’t get so involved with a victim. This case has got under his skin, and finding out about ghosts only adds to his frustrations at being unable to solve it. Of course, he is reluctant to believe at first but soon attributes the strange goings on at his residence to a haunted spirit.
Where I had my doubts about Dark’s credibility as a character, I also had misgivings about Maria, our blind victim. She has in fact had an operation to restore her sight, yet still chooses to wear a blindfold and offers very little explanation for this. I was expecting there to be more exploration of her sight and her mentality behind the decision, but instead we are simply given various impressions of how she finds her way around London and how she feels about being stalked. I did admire the way she handles the situation, as she is not afraid to continue her life as normal and still goes to the shore to find hidden treasures. The only irritating part is the number of times she slips past those watching her, ignoring the fact that they only have her best interests at heart.
Despite these feelings towards the characters, I was keen to find out who the stalker was and how everything would be tied up towards the end. I was slightly disappointed with the speed at which the conclusion was drawn together, and also with the stalker’s identity, as the culprit is such a minor character that I’d forgotten who they were. I think this novel’s cast of characters was too large to dedicate enough time to everyone, and it is the ongoing mysteries that hold the plot together rather than any character attachment. I could very much take or leave this book, and would have liked to see the supernatural elements integrated better into the living world in order to form a better connection with the book. If supernatural mysteries are your thing then you might appreciate this book a bit more, but unfortunately this wasn’t to my taste and I would only give it 2.5 stars.