Whenever an author’s debut book is as top notch as FRANTIC was – I always panic when I pick up their second. The expectations are always high; the reality is that sometimes those expectations don’t follow through.
Well, Katherine Howell has managed to do it again with her follow up book THE DARKEST HOUR. The investigating officer, Detective Ella Marconi, is the same as in FRANTIC, however this time the story revolves around a different main character, Lauren. Lauren and Joe are paramedics working in Sydney. The book opens in a cold winter’s night with Lauren on her own at the scene of a horrific car smash where she declares the driver dead. On her return to the ambulance station she sees a man collapse in a gutter while a second one runs off. As she goes to his assistance she sees someone else, someone she recognises – Miles Warner, her sister’s ex-partner and father of her niece. He threatens to hurt Lauren and her family if she lets on that she has seen him. Despite the fact she knows she is breaking the law, Lauren stays silent to protect her sister and niece. A few months later as Joe and Lauren rush to hospital in a vain attempt to save a stabbing victim and he names Miles Warner as his assailant, and this time Lauren can’t cover it up.
Ella Marconi is the investigative officer, struggling to prove herself in her recent promotion in homicide while keep her doting and inquisitive Italian family at bay. Lauren has made a poor decision and eventually comes clean with Ella. Ella now has to find Warner, prove he did it and protect Lauren and her family.
Unlike Lauren and Ella, the reader knows where Miles Warner is and what he is up to which means THE DARKEST HOUR is a real page turner as the suspense builds up steadily and unrelentingly.
Author Katherine Howell has used her experience as paramedic to write another superb story. The procedures and dialogue just roll out naturally and as the reader I could “hear” the tense, rapid and concise radio exchanges as if I was really there in the ambulance as it hurtled from one emergency to another. THE DARKEST HOUR is a quality thriller, cleverly blending on the edge of your seat action with the personal lives of the main characters. Both women are as tough as they need to be professionally. However, they each have their own vulnerabilities which Howell reveals to demonstrate their humanity, and makes them more real.
Katherine Howell writes a damn good story – her plot is faultless, tension and suspense balanced with small havens of down time for both the characters and reader.