Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 18th April 2019 from Trapeze
There’s a killer on the island – and someone knows who…
When human bones are found in a remote bay in the Channel Islands, DCI Michael Gilbert is plunged into an investigation to find out who they belong to. The remains are decades old – but after another body is discovered, the police realise they could be dealing with a serial killer.
Journalist Jennifer Dorey is desperate for answers, driven by a secret of her own – but it soon becomes clear that nobody on the island is quite what they seem. Will anyone tell the truth before it’s too late? Or will the killer on the island strike again…?
I loved Lara Dearman’s first Jennifer Dorey book, The Devil’s Claw and so was very keen to read the second in the series, which can happily be read perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.
This time, most of the action takes place on the small island of Sark, the titular Dark Sky Island, so named because it has little light pollution (the island has one lamppost) and the constellations can be seen so clearly in the night sky.
Jenny, a journalist on the Guernsey News, is one of three voices we hear from in this book. The others are DCI Michael Gilbert, who is dating Jenny’s mum and a woman named Rachel, whose viewpoint comes to us from the late 1970’s.
Dearman was always going to be off to a running start by picking Sark on which to set the majority of the action. Sark is part of the Channel Islands. It is a royal fief, which forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. With a population of around 500, Sark is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from roads and only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are allowed.
What a location for a murder and a series of mysteries. Deeply atmospheric and quite, quite beautiful, Sark is the central character here, her wild and dangerous beauty luring others to their deaths.
Law enforcement isn’t really much required on an island where the ferry I the only means of getting on and off the island, unless you are a boat owner, or in the case of the millionaire owner of Little Sark, you have your own helicopter. So there is one volunteer P.C. and if required, the Guernsey police will look after anything serious.
For Jenny, brought to the island when she receives a tip off that human remains have been found in one of the Sark caves, this is a bittersweet return to Sark. Sark is where her father drowned, in a death ruled accidental. But Jenny knows he was much too careful a fisherman to have drowned in an accident and she is determined to get to the truth. She’s hopeful that she can speak to people on Sark and find out a little more about what her dad was to when he died.
But while the police investigate how these remains came to be there, which could potentially have been lying undiscovered for decades, another man is murdered and dark secrets about what has been happening on the island come to light.
She’s hardly begun to investigate the human remains when, after a disturbing conversation with one of her father’s friends, he is subsequently found dead, with his throat slashed.
Are the finding of human remains and the terrible murder connected? While there is no evidence to suggest so, the islanders are staying particularly tight lipped and it is soon clear that the answers to all the mysteries, historic and current, are buried deep on the island.
Dearman offers up a dotted graph of a trail which will finally enable the reader to join the dots; but not until the very end of the book.
Dearman’s characters are vivid and personable; her descriptive powers are such that you can visualise these people and even the annoying or unpleasant ones reinforce your pleasure in being immersed in this novel. The pace is excellent and Dearman ensures that the path to solving her mysteries will twist and turn before you see where you are going.
Verdict: Another captivating, immersive read in this Channel Islands series. I really hope there will be more.
Lara was born and raised on the Channel Island of Guernsey. She moved to the UK to study International Relations and French at the University of Sussex, after which she endured a brief career in finance before giving it up to be a stay at home mum to her three children. A short course in Creative Writing at Richmond Adult Community College led to Lara studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, London. She graduated in 2016 with a distinction. Having moved from Guernsey to Brighton to London to Paris to Singapore and back to London over the last fifteen years, she has now settled in Westchester, New York, with her family. Her first novel, The Devil’s Claw, combines her love of Guernsey, myths and folklore with her obsession with crime fiction and serial killers. In the sequel, Dark Sky Island, murder and mystery arrive on the beautiful and isolated island of Sark.
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