book review

The Dark by Emma Haughton

Thank you to the Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: August 19, 2021

Publisher: Hodder and Staughton

Pages: 384

Genre: Mystery; locked room

Rating: 4/5

The Dark is an atmospheric, slow burn, closed circle murder mystery. Closed circle is basically a locked room mystery but the environment is larger. In this case, our protagonist, Kate North, has just joined a United Nations research station based in Antarctica where in the winter they are completely cut off from not only the larger world but also the other research stations that are spread around Antarctica. Kate is a late addition to the crew of people who are already living and working there after the doctor that was stationed there had an accident (or was it?) and they are in desperate need of a doctor before winter hits. This isolated and secluded setting is perfect for Kate since she is needing a major life change after a recent traumatic event in her life.

The first half of this book is just getting the reader well aquatinted with all the people who are living at the research station and also the realities of living in Antarctica. Haughton does an incredible job of fully immersing us in her world and I fully felt the cold and could see myself tagging along with these characters. We also got an intimate look into what Kate’s job entails and how she is dealing with the event of her past. She also starts to have some suspicions about the death of the previous doctor and this slowly starts to build to the dramatic events of the second half. The first half also offers us a detailed look at how the relationship dynamics work within the small group that are living at the station. All of this world building helps Haughton deliver a fast paced latter half since we are firmly entrenched in the world.

The last half of this book is where the majority of the intrigue resides because there are a few questionable things that happen but out of the blue there is a murder and things quickly snowball from there. The pace of the second half more than makes up for the careful plodding along that the makes up the first half. Despite my constant mentioning of the slower pace of the beginning I still read this book quite quickly but the end of the book was almost impossible to put down. I found the majority of the characters to be well fleshed out and I think Haughton’s choice of letting us get to know the characters so well before the murder happens only helped the story. Not only are we questioning everyone but we are also mourning the deceased.

My only critique of this story is that because of the terrible event Kate has been through she has become addicted to painkillers and there is a significant amount of the story spent on it. I do understand the value it brought to the story and how it played out but I do wish some of her inner monologue about it had been cut down because it is the only thing that really lagged for me.

I throughly enjoyed this murder mystery featuring my favorite trope. The evocative setting was superbly done and added so much to the classic mystery trope. I spent a lot of time mentioning the slowness of the first half because I think it is important going into this story that you know that the events mentioned in the synopsis of the book don’t happen right away. However, I really enjoyed the journey it took to get there and I have to again credit that to the setting and my attachment to our protagonist, Kate. This is a closed circle mystery that is worth the wait and I hope that I have intrigued you enough to give this book a shot.

~Cassie

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