In the Dark, by Loreth Anne White

Nine stars

Loreth Anne White pens this chilling standalone novel with a mystery that gets better the more layers are revealed. In the rural British Columbia community of Kluhane Bay, hunters find the remains of a prop plane, though no one has reported any missing aircraft. Local RCMP investigate, only to find the pilot murdered within, identity unknown. As the investigation progresses, Search and Rescue are called in to help, though progress is slow going and the story behind the plane is bafflingly vague. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative set a week before, a collection of eight individuals are mysteriously invited to a not-yet-opened luxury spa and resort, asked to come and place tenders on various services that will be needed. The RAKAM Group is paying for everything and the group must travel by prop plane to this highly secretive location. With the group gathered, things begin to happen that leave those present wondering if they are part of some larger scheme. Additionally, various members of the group are sure they know one another, but no one is saying much of anything. Arriving at an abandoned lodge, a typed poem explains how the group will be whittled down in various fatal events leaves everyone on edge. When the bodies begin piling up, this CLUE-esque story begins to gain momentum. Split between the events with the core group and the aforementioned investigation a week later, the reader is pulled into the middle of this mystery, which has so many twists and slow reveals that there will be few who opt for sleep before finishing this piece. White has laid the groundwork for a stunning read and needs only for readers to commit themselves to go into the dark, unsure if they will ever emerge. Highly recommended to those who love a mystery that requires complete concentration to crack, as well as the reader who enjoys a whodunit where the target continues to shift.

I have read a few White novels before and found myself spellbound, but nothing like I was here. With a brilliant double narrative, the reader learns things on both ends—the event and the investigation— seeking to find the truth somewhere in the middle. With a strong plot and a sub-plot involving all the characters on the trip, the story allows the reader to juggle numerous motives and ideas as they seek to get to the bottom of what is going on in this bucolic BC community. With each character possessing their own intense backstory, it is impossible to choose a single protagonist, though the reader is free to latch onto someone and follow their progress throughout. Blatantly inspired by an Agatha Christie novel—White makes mention of it throughout the narrative—the reader is able to follow the story but can never be entirely sure of what awaits them. With clues embedded within the story and a killer lurking in the shadows (or maybe plain sight), it will take simple time and determination to push through this novel to see how it all plays out. With a mix of short and longer chapters, White taunts the reader and forced them to decide if they can handle ‘just a little more’ before putting it down for the night. Told of the variety of perspectives, the reader gets first-hand information that will help meld the pieces of the story into a cohesive whole. I’d venture to say this is one of those books where a single sitting or late night reading is sure to be common. I cannot say enough about this book, which came out of nowhere and left me seeking more, like a true mystery addict.

Kudos, Madam White, for a stunning piece. This is what real mysteries are all about, where the reader cannot catch their breath at the end of the experience.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: