Karen Rose novels should come with trigger warnings. I don't remember reading any of them that didn't involve something that would cause a PTSD episode and Alone in the Dark is no different. To start my review, I am going to offer my own warning, just in case someone stumbles upon this not expecting to encounter harmful stimuli. This book includes scenes of murder, torture, and conversations involving sexual assault, rape, and human trafficking. It would be impossible for me to write an accurate review without discussing these same topics. Please, if these are your triggers, click away now. I would not feel comfortable thinking that I caused anyone distress because they read one of my reviews.
Marcus O'Bannion was only trying to help, 17-year-old Tala. He knew something was wrong, but without proof, there was nothing he, or his newspaper, could do to help. That's why he agreed to meet her in a dark alley in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, before he could get much information from her, she's shot and killed. As the sole witness, he vows to find her killer and bring him to justice.
Detective Scarlett Bishop is tired. She's seen way too much and isn't sure how much longer she can handle it. When Marcus called her to meet him in the middle of the night, she didn't hesitate. She got in her car and drove to the bad part of Cincinnati. He didn't tell her what he wanted, but as she hadn't heard from him in months, she knew it had to be important. Of course, there was the intense attraction she'd felt for him from the moment they met, nine months earlier. Together, they begin to investigate a young girl's murder and stumble upon a dangerous ring of human traffickers, who will stop at nothing to keep their business running.
Personally, I've been looking forward to this book for a year--just as I am already looking forward to the next book that won't be out until next February. I know that these books wouldn't be quite as good if Ms. Rose didn't take so long to write them, but I would be so happy if they were out more than once a year. I feel the same way about Julie James's FBI/US Attorney Series and how I felt about the Pink Carnation Series.
One of the things that is so great about Ms. Rose's books is how well researched each one is. I just have to wonder about her sanity after she's done. Does she google cute puppy pictures to erase some of the images that must be etched onto her brain? For this book alone, she had to research torture techniques and human trafficking. When I was at Northeastern, the CJ department was running a study of human trafficking and right outside the elevators I had to take to get to one of my classes was information about that study. I am ashamed to say that I rushed by that section of Churchill Hall every time I was there. One of my friends was a part of the research team and even traveled to Seattle, which apparently is one of the biggest ports for human trafficking into the US. I don't know how she was able to stomach it because I know that I couldn't. Sure, I can read about serial killers and all the inhumane things that they do, but there's just something about human trafficking that gets to me at a visceral level.
There was a lot going on in this book and honestly, it was too much. We could have cut the page count by 100 pages and the story, the heart of it, anyway, wouldn't have suffered. So much of what was going on with the antagonists was unnecessary. I really did not care about the inner workings of the human traffickers. I don't care about who was betraying whom within that criminal organization. The whole subplot about Ken's friends and who was or was not metaphorically sticking a knife in his back could have been lifted right out and it would have been so much better. I get the scenes involving Tala's "owners" and why that was necessary, but the others about how Ken was hurting were unnecessary. I did not get anything from them. The last plot twist involving them was predictable and I wish it wasn't there. I was actually hoping for a whole other twist, which I think would have worked better, but I didn't get it.
I did enjoy learning about Marcus and Stone's past and this was the part of the book that was done the best. I didn't really like Stone in the last book, but Alone in the Dark makes him a very sympathetic character--so much so that I hope the next book will be about him and Delores. I think that relationship is sweet and will go a long way to healing him.
I also have to mention that while I was reading last night (and learning Marcus's backstory) I burst out laughing because there was a character, who mostly reminded me of a certain soap mobster with a soft spot for saving people. Yes, I am talking about General Hospital's Jason Morgan (played by both Steve Burton and Billy Miller in recent years). I had hoped to have a Jason meme to put here, but sadly GH fans don't seem to have made one. How is that even possible? They all fight over him ALL THE TIME. Between Liaison and JaSam fans there should be a plethora to choose from, but all Google could give me was a bunch of stills of Burton and Miller. While they're both ridiculously good looking men, I didn't think that would be good enough. Well, maybe it is. Since I haven't watched at all in nearly 2 years (with the exception of the Nurses' Ball because one simple does not skip the Nurses' Ball), I guess I'll have to post a picture of my Jason, especially since he was the reason I started watching GH when I was a month shy of my 9th birthday. (It was the eyes. Dude has beautiful eyes.)
Anyone that watch GH from the mid-90's on will know exactly which character I am talking about and probably will think the exact same thing I did as I read it.
Okay, back to business.
I definitely liked the chemistry between Scarlett and Marcus, although I was a little disappointed in how long it took to get to the personal part of their relationship (I'd already hit the 200 page mark before anything happened, and sure there were still a good 500 pages to go, it just really took too long).
I also like that Ms. Rose was able to poke fun at herself. At one point, Marcus asks to be embedded in the case and Scarlett's boss says something about a television show with the writer that follows the cops around. It actually took me that long to make the connection, but again, I was laughing out loud, especially considering the fact that one of what I think of as an NPC (non-player character for those who don't speak geek as fluently as I do), was named Bracken. Yep. She went all Castle up in there. And because I've already completely gone off the rails with this review:
Another ridiculously handsome man, who somehow just keeps getting better looking as he ages. I watched him as evil Caleb on Buffy yesterday and he didn't look anywhere near as good looking as he does now. Sigh.
In Summary: Unnecessary bits is the theme of this review (obviously), Karen Rose is a brilliant author (even with the unnecessary bits), and I can't wait until next February.