Source: Review copy
Publication: 14 April 2022 from Macmillan
My thanks to Macmillan for an advance copy for review
THE PLACE: Seawings, a beautiful Art Deco home overlooking the sweep of the bay in Midtown-on-Sea.
THE CRIME: The gilded Holden family – Piper and Gray and their two teenage children, Riva and Artie – has vanished from the house without a trace.
THE DETECTIVE: DS Saul Anguish, brilliant but with a dark past, treads the narrow line between light and shade.
One late autumn morning, Piper’s best friend arrives at Seawings to discover an eerie scene – the kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, the cars are in the garage. But the house is deserted.
In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words:
What happens next?
I love Fiona Cummins writing and Into the Dark is a real cracker. A stand-alone book (for the moment anyway), readers of Cummins’ previous works The Rattle and The Collector will nevertheless recognise the origins of D.C. Saul Anguish and understand his dark background. Cummins supplies sufficient detail to allow the newest readers to enter his life, but nevertheless, there is a frisson of tension and excitement in recognising him in this new environment.
This book is set in Midtown-on-Sea, an affluent coastal resort in Essex where Seawings is the house in which the Holden’s live. I have house envy for this one; it sounds so wonderful. Not surprisingly, for the Holdens, Gray and Piper and their children Riva and Artie are very well off. Gray is an investment broker and Piper is the epitome of style and class.
Julianne Hillier is Piper’s neighbour and long term friend. They go way back and are both friends and confidantes. So when Julianne arrives at Seawings for her daily run with Piper and finds the house deserted, she knows immediately that something is very, very wrong.
Cummins does the dark underbelly of suburban life really well. Her portrayal of the perfect family slowly unravels to reveal the dark secrets, lies and rivalries that lie just beneath the surface of this seemingly idyllic life.
D.C. Saul Anguish (what a perfect character name!) is a new addition to the Essex team. He is keen to impress but nobody’s fool and we see straight away that he may have anger issues. And that’s only the half of it… He quickly comes to realise that the team has a very smart addition in the shape of Dr Clover March, a forensic linguist, whose skills soon prove to be invaluable. She is also attractive, sharp witted and distinctive – partly because of her blue hair and partly because she has a condition that causes her real grief.
It is this pairing that makes the book so interesting and there’s no doubt that these are characters you want to see again.
Cummins takes this affluent town with its perfect family and peels back the layers showing the poison, duplicity and deception underneath. Even the children have secrets they would not want found out.
Cummins deploys a timeline that moves from the present back and forth to reveal the events leading up to the disappearance and as we catch glimpses of who these people are and what they have been up to, it becomes clear that these are not the perfect people they outwardly appear to be.
Into the Dark is a beautifully twisted tale. Every time you think you have a handle on what is happening, Cummins pulls another flanker leaving you open mouthed. There are layers upon layers here and as each one is pulled back, the picture looks darker than ever.
Verdict: Ingeniously plotted, with stand-out characters and a detective duo you want to see much more of, Into the Dark is unmissable. There’s so much bubbling under the surface, it is like a deliciously bitter, dark chocolate with a core of molten lava. I loved it.
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. She lives in Essex with her family. When I Was Ten is her fourth novel, following Rattle, The Collector and The Neighbour.