The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco

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The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A great multi-viewpoint murder thriller that puts VM Giambanco right up there with the best. Move over Jeffery Deaver and Patricia Cornwell, there's a new talent in town.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 506 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780878706

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Thirteen days. These are the words etched into the door jamb of James and Annie Sinclair's bedroom while James, Annie and their two young sons lay on the bed, murdered. Newbie in the Seattle PD homicide division, Detective Alison Madison, gradually realises a truth as horrific as the scene with which she and her colleagues are faced. It all started with a historic kidnapping from 25 years earlier and now time is running out. Thirteen days… They aren't just carved words, they're a ticking clock. Thirteen days to solve the case. Thirteen days before darkness descends.

Italian-born England-based VM Giambanco has a degree in art and drama and a background in film editing that extends from small, independent work to the large studio variety. Now, normally I would add biographical detail like that for general info. In the case of this, Valentina's debut novel, it also doubles as an explanation for a debut novel that's as dramatic as it is filmic as it is excellent.

Having said that, please don't get the impression that this is merely summer-blockbuster-action-filmic; it's oh so much more than that. Action is the story's flesh but its backbone is the people who inhabit it. We change viewpoints between Alison, trying to prove that she has earned her new job while struggling with other things in her life, Quinn, the hardened lawyer defending his client with the added complication that both were victims of the historic kidnapping, Riley the journalist plying all the tricks of the trade to get an edge over his competitors and the viewpoint of the murderer themself. We see their present but are also shown their psyches and pasts in a way that runs alongside the momentum rather than slows it.

This is also the work of an author unafraid of squeezing emotion from us and, where I'm concerned at least, succeeding. By understanding the bad guy's past we feel for him despite ourselves and despite the horror of his actions. Tenderness and a profound poignancy ripple through the writing to meet the embryonic evil in his youth. Similarly Alison's past wasn't perfect and the more we learn the more we see the reasons for her choice of career.

There aren't only quirky angles – Valentina doesn't short change us in any department including the thriller writers' bread-and-butter. The tension is ever-present and the twists are unexpected and the enemy of a good manicure. In fact we become so paranoid that we eventually brace ourselves whenever a cop goes into a room or turns a light on.

There's plenty of violence and blood too but the extent and shock value comes to us via our own extrapolation rather than Scarpetta-esque graphic description, although Ms Giambanco's writing will definitely appeal to Patricia Cornwell fans as well as followers of Jeffery Deaver.

The ultimate proof of the novel's thrall is my notes. I normally jot an A4 side or two as I read for review. In this case I was obviously not going to put the story down for anything, not even a pen; I scarcely wrote 10 lines.

If this appeals then we can also heartily recommend The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver.

Buy The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco at

Buy The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco at

Booklists.jpg The Gift of Darkness by VM Giambanco is in the Top Ten Crime Novels 0f 2013.


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