Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 October 2022 from Thomas and Mercer
My thanks to Thomas and Mercer for an advance copy for review
Ex–crime reporter Leonard Blaylock spends his days on an unusual hobby, developing strangers’ forgotten and discarded rolls of film. He loves the small mysteries the photographs reveal to him. Then Leonard finds something no one would ever expect, or want, to see captured on film―the murder of a young woman.
But that’s impossible, because the woman is already dead. Leonard was there when it happened five years earlier. He has never been able to shake his guilt from that terrible night. It cost Leonard everything: his career, his fiancée, his future. But if the woman didn’t really die, then what actually happened?
I’m a big fan of Lisa Gray’s Jessica Shaw P.I. series and so was keen to read her first published stand-alone thriller. It’s a great read.
Leonard Blaylock used to be a crime reporter and now he spends his days trawling sales and fairs for used rolls of 35mm film taken by strangers, which he develops. He’s fascinated by other people’s photographs and loves to think about who the people might be and what they were doing when the unknown photographer caught them on camera.
But he’s taken aback when he develops one roll of film only to find that it has been recently taken and that it shows the body of a young woman – a woman who has very clearly been murdered. Leonard is shaken. Finding a photo like this is bad enough, but he knows this woman. He knows her because five years ago he was there when she died.
It was, unsurprisingly, a night he will never forget. As a crime reporter he was riding high. He had a great career, was in love with his beautiful fiancée. And one terrible night changed all that for ever. It’s a night Leonard has never recovered from.
So how on earth has this photograph now emerged? If the woman wasn’t dead five years ago, what happened? And how did she come to be dead now?
Lisa Gray takes us through Leonard’s grisly recollections of that night 5 years ago when the woman he knew as ‘Red’ died. She’d been a casual attraction and what was an unplanned one night stand went horribly wrong. Leonard ran and never looked back, but his life was never the same again. His fiancée, a rising star in television, presenter Caroline Cooper ditched him unceremoniously and his career tanked.
Leonard turns to photographer Martha Weaver to help him figure out what has happened. She shares his fascinating with abandoned rolls of film and the two have become online friends in a forum for those who share this hobby.
Lisa Gray’s story is beautifully rendered. It twists and turns and keeps us endlessly captivated as new angles emerge and Leonard gets closer to finding out what happened the night he fled from a murder scene.
The Dark Room is told from a number of points of view. As the story unfolds we begin to see that this is a story as coiled as a python and just as likely to squeeze the life out of any of its characters. Not everyone is telling the truth and there are layers of deceit which build into a huge pyramid of lies that is in danger of toppling and bringing everything down.
Verdict: I really enjoyed the layering in this story and the way Lisa Gray slowly unfurls the truth, leaving us gasping right to the end. This is a terrific, well-paced read which will keep you guessing all the way through.
Lisa Gray is an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She previously worked as the chief Scottish soccer writer at the Press Association and the books editor at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. She is also the author of Thin Air, Bad Memory, Dark Highway, and Lonely Hearts. She now writes full-time.