Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak
|Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak|
|Reviewer: Stephen Leach|
|Summary: A deliciously dark, spine-tingling thriller. Explicit themes.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: August 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Her Darkest Nightmare has all the right ingredients for a crime thriller. Shrewd, intelligent, and hard-as-nails protagonist? Check. Fantastic setting? Check. A compelling mystery? Check! A thoroughly despicable villain? Check, and check again… and maybe check one more time…
I’m going to say it upfront: I loved this book. Though Novak’s dialogue tended to be slightly awkward and unnatural, her descriptions and characterisation were spot-on. I could perfectly visualise all of the characters – even a couple who we never see on-page – and the imageries of the dark, remote Alaskan wilderness are fantastic, adding another layer of unease to the bleakness of Hanover House, dumping ground for the very worst of humanity.
The plot kicks off almost immediately, as the various parts of a dismembered body are found in the nearby town. Inevitably, inmate involvement is suspected, and the mystery quickly intensifies. Entwined with this plot is Evelyn’s burgeoning romance with Sergeant Amarok, the town’s sole police officer. I didn’t expect to enjoy these scenes as much as I did, but I was pleasantly surprised. Novak takes her time to explore how someone as damaged as Evelyn can move on; she hasn’t allowed herself to trust a man for nearly twenty years. But she slowly opens up to him she starts to loosen up and come out of her shell. What works so well about this is that Amarok isn’t the impetus of this change – he’s merely part of it, supporting her rather than pushing her.
Novak builds the mystery incredibly – almost maddeningly – slowly. Creepily, she teases information through the mouths of the inmates. Do they know something about what’s going on? Or are they bluffing? Shackled and trapped behind thick glass, nonetheless they assure Evelyn that soon enough they’ll escape, and they’ll come for her. Even though it’s plain that it’s an empty threat, there’s something so insidious about them that you start to believe it could happen.
The amount of information we get about what makes a psychopath tick is phenomenal. In places some of this could possibly have been cut – I got the sense that Novak, not unreasonably, wanted to squeeze every bit of research she did into the book. This occasionally slowed down the pacing of some scenes, but I’m the sort of person who wants to know these facts and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of them. If nothing else, Her Darkest Nightmare will have you dashing to your computer to Google whether you might be a psychopath, too…
Towards the end of the novel, things start to come together, and you can see how it’s all going to play out. The only trouble is, the characters don’t, and I was on tenterhooks, waiting for them to fall into the trap, wishing I could warn them, unable to resist glancing at the right-hand page whilst reading the left one. The epilogue was the bit that surprised me most of all, though – I did not see that coming! Perfect set-up for a sequel… or three.
Some people might be put off by the psychopaths and the horror, as well as the more explicit sexual elements, but this is the kind of book you don’t have to like crime novels to enjoy. As for me, I enjoyed Her Darkest Nightmare immensely, and will be keeping my eye out for the sequel.
But just fyi… I’m not a psychopath. Really. I checked.
If you enjoyed this book, you might like the similar City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong.
You can read more book reviews or buy Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak at Amazon.com.
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