When a pharmaceuticals heiress is found murdered and an eyewitness names the victim's husband as the killer, prosecutor, Sidney Michaelson, thinks she has an open and shut case of murder for greed. Then her prime suspect escapes from custody and Sidney begins receiving chilling messages written in nursery rhymes at the same time her apartment is broken into. Police detective, Cole Vladik, is called in to both protect Sidney and investigate the case. Cole and Sidney go to the offices of the pharmaceutical company hoping to find some clues and get far more than they bargained for. Their gruesome finds in the bowels of the building make them rethink the entire case. But can they stop a madman before Sidney becomes his next victim?
In the Company of Darkness is a romantic suspense novel that is heavy on the mystery/suspense element and light on the romance. Cole, the hero, is a police detective, and Sidney, the heroine, is an attorney working in the county prosecutor's office. When the prime suspect in a murder case that Sidney is trying escapes from custody and she begins receiving creepy messages, Cole is assigned to protect her. Together, the two work to uncover the truth about the murder of a pharmaceuticals heiress and in the process discover some grisly finds that make them realize there is more to this case than meets the eye. The mystery/suspense part of the plot was interesting and pretty well done, although there were times I had a little trouble following what was going on. There also wasn't quite enough set-up for the secondary characters as potential red herrings for me to have a chance to speculate on who the real killer might be. Since that's half the fun of reading a mystery story, this was a little disappointing.
As for the romance, Cole and Sidney develop an attraction for one another from the moment they meet which gradually builds until there is one brief, mild love scene near the end. To me, the romantic element contained very little emotion and remained primarily on the physical plane. Both Cole and Sidney seemed like very cerebral people and as a consequence, lacked the sentimentality to convey the romantic connection as effectively as I would have liked. Neither, to the best of my recollection, made any declarations of love. The story takes place over perhaps a week, if even that. I freely admit that most of the time, it's hard to believe that two people can fall in love that quickly, so for that reason, not having them say, "I love you," was probably the more believable route to take. However, it did leave something to be desired. Also, the ending was more HFN than HEA with Cole and Sidney implicitly agreeing to continue their relationship. Because the romance was so light, I almost feel like the book might be better categorized as a straight suspense/thriller.
Cole and Sidney are both likable characters for as well as I got to know them. The decisions they make and the way they react to certain events throughout the book, seem to be fueled by traumatic incidences from each of their pasts. The reader learns about these sordid occurrences through frequent flashbacks that only reveal bits and pieces at a time. Sometimes these could be a little confusing, especially since there were essentially three mysteries to follow at once, the main plot and both characters' backstories. In my opinion, it was just a little too much for one relatively short book, and the backstory mysteries occasionally distracted from the main story. I think it would have been more effective to just let the reader in on what makes the characters tick right from the get-go, or perhaps leave only one shrouded in mystery while the other was more open. I also felt that Cole and Sidney's combined pasts were filled with a little too much tragedy, almost to the point that they became depressing to read about.
The author definitely has a talent for the art of metaphor and imagery, almost to the point that the book had a more literary feel to it. I'm not entirely sure that this is the best approach for a popular fiction genre though, as it can be easy to loose your target audience. Such was the case for me, as the long passages using this device, at times, made me temporarily loose the direction of the story and forget what the characters were doing. In my opinion, the author overused rhetorical questions as a literary device too. Additionally, every once in a while there seemed to be a little hiccup in the flow of the dialog or narrative where I felt like I'd missed something, like some little detail was left out. I found several continuity errors as well, and a few times names were thrown out, leaving me with no idea who the characters were talking about. Lastly, I wasn't overly fond of the POV flip-flopping back and forth between the hero and heroine with no warning. It was just a little jarring to be in one character's perspective and then abruptly dumped into the other's POV.
Overall, In the Company of Darkness was a decent read in spite of any perceived weaknesses. For the most part, it held my attention. It was rather fun reading a book that takes place in the city I call home, where I know the streets and places that the characters visit. The hero and heroine were agreeable, the mystery was intriguing, and the nail-biting ending kept me on the edge of my seat. Readers who like rich imagery and a nuanced touch that has more the feel of classic noir will probably enjoy this one more than I did. I think I just tend to be the type of person who prefers more straightforward narrative with a little less bleakness in tone and characters. A bit more in the romance department definitely would have been welcome too, but all in all, not a bad little story.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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