'Dark Room' Won't Keep True Mystery Lovers in the Dark
By Andrea Kane
Avon, 2008, $7.99
I'm not a huge mystery fan. I don't go out of my way to read them, and I don't have that detective's mind that solves mysteries readily. But I like a good read.
In "Dark Room," the heroine, Morgan Winter, is still struggling over the grizzly murder of her parents, Jack and Lara Winters, that took place 17 years ago. When new evidence overturns the killer's conviction, Morgan must relive the horror as she's faced with the knowledge that the real killer has been free all of this time.
She hires Pete "Monty" Montgomery, the former NYPD detective who helped Morgan through the original trauma of losing her parents. Since he never felt comfortable with the Winter case's conclusion -- and because he never plays by the rules -- Monty quit the force and became a private detective. He now has a second crack at solving this case.
With nothing more than an old case file and some crime scene photos, Monty gets to work, enlisting the help of his son, Lane, an expert photojournalist and image analyst.
Lane and Morgan form a close bond as her case runs into complications and a romance -- gratuitous to the story if you ask me -- ensues.
Complicating matters even more, her surrogate family, close friends of her parents, become embroiled in the dangerous threats.
Arthur Shore, a powerful congressman, and his wife, Elyse, took Morgan into their home as an orphaned child. She grew up with the family, which included their daughter, Jill. As readers become involved in the story, we learn that the marriage is a strained one, founded on political aspirations and fraught with infidelity and tension. As Morgan, Monty and Lane search for and examine clues that may lead to the murderer's identity, more of the relationship between the Shores and the Winterses is revealed for what it really was: complicated.
"Dark Room" wasn't much of a mystery, at least to me. I'd pretty much solved the murders one third of the way into the book, save for one small twist.
But that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Author Andrea Kane wrote an engaging novel with likable albeit stereotypical characters.
Monty could have been cast as every wisecracking, hardboiled detective on every crime show and movie.
Almost every woman in the novel, from Morgan on down to Elyse, are all feisty, professional and successful yet vulnerable -- with delicate features to boot. But readers will feel sympathy for Morgan as she struggles through her parents' deaths all over again. They'll also feel sympathy for Elyse as she continues to excuse her husband's philandering and covers for his transgressions.
Kane writes a fast-paced novel that will keep readers turning the pages, even though I'm sure those true mystery fans will have cracked the case long before I did.
Former staff writer Mary Griffin now makes her home in New Jersey.
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