Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Darkness All Around by Doug Magee

Title: Darkness All Around
Author: Doug Magee

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Small Town / Murder Mystery / Amnesia / Flashback / Alcoholism / Football / Mother-Son Relationships / Second Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Touchstone (6/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- this was a perfect beach read -- easy to dip in and out of, depending on whether I was dipping in and out of the ocean!
One-sentence summary: A woman's small hometown is rocked by the return of her declared dead husband, the resurfacing of a brutal murder, and her own family's violent past.
Reading Challenges: A-to-Z

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- it's nothing special but doesn't bother me.

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer McMahon

First line: It's a body.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a fluffy, creepy summertime read (or save for October!)

Why did I get this book?: Now and then, I like to get my creepy on!

Review: For a moment, I despaired ever really getting into this novel: the book opens with two brief chapters that were sort of vague, kind of flash back-y, and I felt my interest drifting before I could even figure out the story's hook. Then, thankfully, Magee zeroed in on his heroine and for me, the book got interesting.

While there's not a lot that's new in this book, what is offered is solid: the mystery is dark and twisted, the characters compellingly messed up, the tension creepy, and the setting claustrophobic. In a small, football-obsessed Pennsylvania town, Risa is married to a local politician, Alan, who is running for state office. Eleven years earlier, her alcoholic husband Sean disappeared and was eventually declared dead. Their son, Kevin, is the town's football star. One night, Sean returns to town, sobered up and recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and as his amnesia fades, he claims he remembers brutally murdering their friend. Understandably, Risa is kind of flipped.

I don't read a ton of these thrillers as I'm a big stress bucket and the anxiety of getting to the book's twist can render me a twitching idiot. However, Magee's book had a slow tension that I liked mixed with a kind of emotional exploration that really worked for me. Risa struggles not only with emotional impact of her declared-dead husband's return, but the potential of violence in the people she loves: her husband's addictive tendencies, her son's passion -- and skill -- at football, the implications of her current husband's involvement in the investigation of the murder and her ex-husband's past.

I'm totally over traumatic brain injuries as a plot device, and yet when it surfaced in this novel, it worked for -- and made for a rather compelling character. I'm not a football fan, either, but found the sports/violence angle interesting. (However, a character mentions in passing that Kevin might get some attention from Paterno at Penn State and the only reason I understood this reference was due to the abuse scandal.)

This was a perfect weekend read, easy for me to dip in and out of throughout the day. Creepy enough that I waved off friends to keep reading but effortless enough that I could get back into the story were my friends persistent and successful in pulling me away.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Darkness All Around to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/3.

20 comments:

  1. Not sure this is my cup of tea, but fluffy and creepy can be a good combination. ;)

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    1. It was the perfect mix of light and scary -- but I will say I only read it during the daytime!

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  2. That's too bad it takes a bit for the book to get going, but glad you liked it in the end!

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    1. It wasn't super long -- not even 20 pages -- but I definitely found myself considering putting the book down to start another. I'm glad I didn't it -- it was perfect summery fun!

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  3. I will be reading this one soon, so I am glad to hear that you liked it and that it held your interest. Politics and sports aren't really my bag, but I do enjoy a really juicy thriller every now and then, so I am eager to try this one out. Great review today, my friend!

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    1. Heather -- I'm a total sports dummy so I expected to skim all that, but Risa's real unhappiness with her son's involvement in such a violent activity was a fascinating angle and one that resonated for me, so I kept on with that. This was great summery fun -- I hope you enjoy it. And thank you, as usual, for your kind words -- you always make my day!

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  4. No need to enter me. Just wanted to tell you that I love to get my creepy on too (every now and then) but I seem to prefer dark spooky novels set in the English countryside. Man, makes me yearn for October!

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    1. I loooove a good moody English thriller -- the more gothic, the better! I've just started Lynn Shepherd's The Solitary House which is making me crave a rainy day!

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  5. I like creepy from time to time too. This sounds really good!

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    1. Good and creepy, in the best way -- that's totally this book!

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  6. I like that this is creepy so I might give it a shot someday!

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    1. I hope you do -- it's a fast, fun read!

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  7. SOunds like a perfect fall read for me. Like listening to these kind of books on audio for some reason:)

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    1. Eeee -- I could never do an audio version of a thriller -- I literally read faster to get through the tense bits so having to sit and listen would kill me!

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  8. I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. I read his first book, Never Wave Goodbye, and like it but neve really enjoyed it all that much. I liked this one way better.

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    1. I've heard more than a few folks say that so I'm glad I started with this one. It was good for what it was, and certainly made my weekend!

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  9. I love a creepy read, whether at the beach during the summer, or in the fall for Carl's RIP Challenge. Will put this on my TBR!

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    1. YES, I was totally thinking of the RIP challenge with this one -- it's psychological and tense -- very autumnal -- along with the football which I associate with the fall.

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  10. I do not read a lot of mysteries but this one sounds like a perfect read for October. I am going to add it to my TBR list for the fall!

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