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Monday 15 October 2018

‘The Darkest Place’ by Jo Spain

Published by Quercus,
20 September 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78648-397-3

Few crime novel addicts can resist the allure of a book set in a disused and desolate lunatic asylum…put the building on a remote island off the Irish coast, bring together a great cast of suspects and we have the perfect scenario for a cracking whodunnit and whydunnit. Enter DCI Tom Reynolds and the fourth novel in Jo Spain’s police procedural series, The Darkest Place.

The premise is set up quickly: as he celebrates Christmas with his family, Reynolds is called by his despised senior officer to look into a cold case – involving a doctor who went missing from St Christina’s, a psychiatric hospital on the island of Oilean na Caillte forty years earlier. His wife never gave up hope. And now a body has been found.

The Darkest Place is an intelligently crafted, beautifully plotted novel that also sheds a light on the barbaric treatment inmates at psychiatric institutions in Ireland suffered in the 1970s in the name of finding a ‘cure’ for their ills. Jo Spain has clearly done her research, but wears it lightly, and weaves it deftly into her tale. And the knowledge we are left with is that so many patients incarcerated in such institutions were not only those with mental health issues, but also society’s undesirables.

Tom Reynolds is a wonderful protagonist – a family man who loves spending time with his granddaughter. His junior officers are hard-working but have complicated lives. But one of the best things about Reynolds? He is not ‘damaged’ and has little baggage!

The setting of The Darkest Place is dark and atmospheric, full of fog and wind and bumps in the night and screams in the dark. All the islanders have secrets, everyone is a suspect. And there is a very clever twist at the end.

As I mentioned, this is the fourth book in a series, but I easily read it as a standalone, though there are obviously events in past books that have shaped the characters. But that is easily remedied, as I will go back and read the first three novels.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Jo Spain's first novel, top ten bestseller With our Blessing, was one of seven finalists in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition. It was named as an Irish Times crime fiction book of the year by Declan Burke. Beneath the Surface (2016) and Sleeping Beauties (2017), the second and third in the DI Tom Reynolds series followed, to further critical acclaim. Her standalone thriller, The Confession, released in January 2018, became a number one bestseller and sold in multiple territories. Aa new standalone Dirty Little Secrets will be published in 2019. Jo also writes for TV and is the co-writer of new series Taken Down. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children. Jo previously worked as a policy advisor in the Irish parliament and as vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her third book, set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex.  Dark Waters, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in March 2018.

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