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:

The Dark Bones (A Dark Lure #2), by Loreth Anne White

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Loreth Anne White, and Montclair Romance for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

At a time when the thriller genre is supersaturated by authors who wish to peddle their wares, Loreth Anne White enters with a few unique qualities, one of which being the novel’s setting in rural Western Canada. Add to that, the slow development and eerie quality of her writing and the reader is in for a treat as they devour this, the second novel in her new series. The disappearance of two local teenagers two decades before has always been a cold case that nagged at Noah North, a retired cop. When he came upon some new information that may lead to a re-opening of the case, he wanted the world to know, including his daughter, Rebecca, who now resides in Ottawa. When Rebecca speaks to her father, he tells her, a little less than sober, that he knows she was not telling the truth those twenty years ago about what she and a friend were doing. Dismissing it, Rebecca returns to her life, only to receive a stunning call that her father’s committed suicide, shooting himself in the head with a shotgun. When Rebecca returns to her rural British Columbia community, she sees that much has changed and much remains the same. Trying her best to understand what’s happened, Rebecca is pulled into the middle of the case she thought everyone had forgotten, particularly when there is evidence that her father might have been drugged and therefore incapable of killing himself. Opening the old case file, Rebecca begins to piece a great deal together, including examining her friendships and relationships at the time. With the locals all coming to pay respects and opening a past she had compartmentalised, Rebecca North faces many harsh truths, while trying to see if the rumours of a pregnant teen girl fleeing to California still holds weight. With mounting evidence that someone is trying to silence a resurfacing of the case, Rebecca must race to get answers, if only to put her father’s death to rest. White stuns readers yet again with this great follow-up thriller that will please those who enjoyed the debut, and likely hook a new set of readers. Recommended for those who love a thriller that paces itself nicely and keeps the reader wondering.

I read the series debut quickly so that I could sink my teeth into this advance copy. Both proved to be stellar reads for me, my first experiences with Loreth Anne White’s work. The story was strong and developed without losing momentum, while the reader learned more about a new collection of characters from this remote community, while also getting updates on those from the debut. Rebecca North takes centre stage in this piece and keeps them reader enthralled with her development. In a novel that straddles two time periods, Rebecca’s backstory and character development occur almost simultaneously. A teen struggling to find herself, she fled for the other side of the country, only to be pulled back with her father’s death. The reader can see the great contrasts, as White uses her narrative to show both time periods. Other characters find their way onto the page and build both the present and 1998 narratives effectively, from teens to responsible adults who have made something with their lives. White plants wonderful characters of many flavours to add depth to the story and these people feed off one another so well. White uses a different technique here, with short chapters and interspersed flashbacks to a time that is then revealed in the present story. These quick chapters worked well and contrasted nicely with the debut novel, which sought to use longer chapters with smaller ‘perspective break’. The reader will surely enjoy the momentum gained by these brief story breaks that propel the larger narrative forward. Much is revealed and the reader will surely enjoy the underlying mystery that proves to entertain and educate in equal measure.

Kudos, Madam White, for another stellar novel. I am eager to see if you will build on this series, as you have a real fan in me. I hope others discover this series soon!

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

A Dark Lure (A Dark Lure #1), by Loreth Anne White

Eight stars

In this stunning series debut, Loreth Anne White takes readers into rural British Columbia to discover how a small town can bring back horrors of a life erased and be the perfect spot for a serial killer to continue the hunt. After being abducted, raped, and tortured, Sarah Baker escaped her kidnapper, a serial killer with a penchant for ‘hunting’ his victims in the spring. She put that life behind her a dozen years ago, as she did the baby that grew inside her. Re-invented as Olivia West, she now works in a rural British Columbia community, on the Broken Bar Ranch. There, Olivia invites guests who wish to stay in the chalets or camp in the secluded woods, employed by the wealthy and elderly, Myron McDonough. In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Olivia prepares to welcome a handful of guests, while also discovering a secret her boss has been keeping. Myron is dying and has little time left, but refuses to tell his estranged children. On a whim, Olivia tracks down Cole McDonough and makes sure he knows how dire things are at Broken Bar. Meanwhile, Olivia welcomes some people for the weekend, including Gage Burton and his daughter, Tori, as well as an older couple who are up from Arizona. This rag-tag group interact intermittently, while Olivia is forced to deal with the McDonough drama, especially Cole who is just now realising how little he knows about his father. When news breaks of a horrible murder outside Vancouver, many notice the similarities to the Watt River Killer from over a decade before. Olivia has flashbacks to the killer she was sure had been caught, yet this new victim was found in much the same way as those women she saw ‘hunted’. Gage remembers working tangentially on the case in which the Watt River Killer was apprehended, yet this seems all too familiar. Could this be a copycat or is the real killer still out there? With all the hype, there is someone lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect time to strike again, having located ‘Sarah’ after all these years. Will the hunter get his chance yet again, or is the prey wily enough to escape a second time? Drama mounts as the story progresses, in which past lives come crashing together and victimhood takes on a whole new meaning. Fans of a slow-developing thriller will want to check this out, with its Canadian flavour on full display.

I turned to this book because I was offered an advance copy of the second novel in the series. I like to start at the beginning and am pleased I did, as the author develops a stunning lure (pun intended) for her reader in this thriller. The story begins slowly, but picks up the pace as the pieces begin to push together, offering wonderful descriptions and great characters. Olivia West holds her own, forced to stuff her past away and try not to relive it. However, the outward scars and flashbacks are hard to hide, even in this remote community. With the revelation of new killings, she cannot keep it all bottled up, though she tries. Her interactions with Cole McDonough offer some interesting insight into both their characters. White uses this time to tap into her past as a romance writer, developing a complex web of love and lust between them, without removing the thrills of a killer from the plot. Cole is a complicated man himself, having left the riches that his father had once he was banished for his own error. Living the care-free life, Cole must come to terms with what is going on in his own backyard, with a dying father and choices he made that will forever overshadow his decision-making abilities. Others within the story have their own interesting quirks, from a cancer-riddled cop to a teenager trying to come to terms with her mother’s death, keeping the reader attentive to follow all the storylines. White effectively weaves these characters together in a story that will send chills up the spine and keep the reader forging ahead in the Thanksgiving snow just to see how things turn out. With this debut, one can only hope that there is more to come in the second novel, which I am rushing to begin right away!

Kudos, Madam White, for keeping my attention throughout. I am so eager to see what happens and how you will ‘lure’ me in yet again!

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