THE DARKEST HOUR - Katherine Howell
Since finishing THE DARKEST HOUR I've been trying to think of another author who uses such an unusual protagonist's viewpoint of violent crime. I can't, which simply could be my aging brain, or it could be that Howell is looking at violence from an angle that not many have first hand experience of.
THE DARKEST HOUR is Katherine Howell's second book - the first - FRANTIC - was a tremendous debut and she's followed up with another tight, taut and suspenseful book, using parallel viewpoints which almost become plotlines in their own right. THE DARKEST HOUR reintroduces Detective Ella Marconi who shares the limelight this time with paramedic Lauren Yates. Lauren is the ambulance officer called to a series of violent deaths that Marconi is investigating. Unfortunately for Marconi, Lauren Yates knows a lot more about the killer than she's prepared to divulge - frightened for her family and herself by the violent and menacing Thomas Werner.
Less of a mystery as the killer is clearly identified at the start of the books, THE DARKEST HOUR is a thriller in styling, as Marconi tries to identify the killer, that Lauren is only too aware of. Both women find themselves personally threatened and frightened, although unaware of each other's position. Lauren's life is further complicated by her relationship with her working partner - Joe - and the affect this is having on his fiancé.
Whilst it is undoubtedly the difference in viewpoint that make THE DARKEST HOUR (and FRANTIC before it) such fascinating books, there needs to be more to it than just that. And there is. THE DARKEST HOUR provides an overwhelming sense of menace, interwoven with a real sense of the life, in particular, of a paramedic. The complications of potential romance with a work colleague, the exhaustion of a bruising work schedule, the difficulty in talking about the awful things that are seen on a day to day basis, are all very starkly drawn in THE DARKEST HOUR and they really serve to make, in particular, Lauren feel very real. That's not to say that Ella is not a well developed character in her own right - with the problem of what to do with elderly and ailing parents, and the pressure that comes with being a daughter in those circumstances.
THE DARKEST HOUR is definitely up to the same standard as the first book and it's very pleasing to know that Katherine Howell is currently working on a third novel.
Paramedic Lauren Yates stumbles into a world of trouble the night she discovers a killer and his victim in an inner Sydney alley. When the killer threatens to make her life hell if she tells the police what she’s seen, she believes him – he’s Miles Werner, her sister’s violent ex, father to Lauren’s niece, and not a man to cross.
But when another victim of a stabbing reveals to Lauren with his dying breath that Werner attacked him, too, she finds herself with blood on her hands and Detective Ella Marconi on her back. Ella is keen to cement her temporary placement in the homicide squad and views Lauren as the perfect witness for this latest murder because she can testify to the victim’s last words.
Ella soon realises Lauren is hiding something, however, and while her colleagues label her suspicion an obsession, she begins her own investigation. But the harder Ella pushes, the more Lauren resists, and the worse the threat from Werner becomes, putting them both in increasingly serious jeopardy.