The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar

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The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar

Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A gory private investigator/serial killer novel set in Belfast.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 224 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Brandon Books/Mount Eagle
ISBN: 978-0863224034

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Belfast PI Karl Kane is reluctant to take on the case of a missing teenager, but his secretary/girlfriend pushes him into it. As he looks into it further, it becomes apparent that a number of young women are being murdered in a peculiarly nasty way. The case soon becomes very personal as a friend who seemed to know something also becomes a victim. Karl finds himself looking for a serial killer who has abducted and murdered a number of very young women in an especially nasty way. It becomes all too clear that the police do not really care very much. Most of the victims are homeless women with a history of drug problems and a life on the wrong side of the law.

This is Sam Millar's 5th novel and the 2nd in the Karl Kane series. I usually try to start reading crime fiction series at the beginning, but I didn't feel that this was an issue when reading this story – there are some references to Karl's troubled past and how he met his girlfriend, but the book stands up well enough on its own.

I had quite mixed feelings about this novel – I thought it was quite well written but some things didn't quite work for me.

The novel is an odd hybrid of PI and serial killer fiction, in which the scenes about Karl's investigation of the case are interspersed with gory scenes describing the serial killer's back story and the ordeals faced by some of his victims. These are quite graphically written and unpleasant to read. Millar also goes into some quite explicit detail in some sex scenes in the book.

In reading crime series, I like to find new investigators who I really want to spend some time with. I didn't care as much as I wanted to about Karl Kane as a character, and I mostly felt quite detached from the story.

Millar makes an effort to establish his detective as a sympathetic character – a dark past, a father, an ex-wife and teenage daughter, a current romantic interest, thwarted literary ambitions, a sense of humour and regular discomfort from his piles – but he stays a fictional character. Millar uses a lot of quotations from other literary works, Irish, American and English, 16th and 20th century, but for me the references to Raymond Chandler only made me feel disappointed that Karl Kane isn't really Belfast's answer to Philip Marlowe. The most emotionally moving scenes in the book involved Karl and his father, and these are not central to the main story.

I would probably try another book in this series if I came across one, but wouldn't actively seek one out. I am more tempted by the author's memoir of his own rather colourful life as an Irish Republican prisoner and then a convicted bank robber.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy of this book to The Bookbag.

For readers looking for other private investigator/crime novels set in Ireland, I would recommend Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series set in Galway (in the Irish Republic), starting with The Guards.

Buy The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Place: A Karl Kane Novel by Sam Millar at Amazon.com.


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