Wake to Darkness
It’s rare that I angst over the grade I am going to give a book. Normally I know by the time I am done what the letter will be, and the variation between a plus or minus can (and often does) work itself out as I write the review. But this book had me stumped enough to keep me from putting fingers to keyboard for over a week. On the one hand, the pacing kept it a page turning thriller. On the other, the villain is predictable and a bit kooky.
This holiday will be the first Christmas Rachel de Luca has celebrated as a sighted adult since she was a young girl. Even a snarky pessimist like herself can’t help being a bit excited about that. The fact that her sister, brother-in-law and niece are out of the country to celebrate somewhere warm and sunny hasn’t stopped Rachel from planning to commemorate the occasion with the niece who stayed behind. If only she can drag the girl away from the loser boyfriend who is the reason for her staying.
After the adventure that had pulled them together several months ago Mason Brown had agreed to keep his distance from Rachel. He felt he owed it to her even though he still thinks of her constantly. But a missing person’s case – which ties in to the bizarre murders Rachel had helped him solve during the time they were together – finds him searching her out again. While not a psychic, Rachel’s ties to the case enable her to have visions of what is happening. Soon she finds herself vicariously living horrific murders, this time as the victim. And then she finds herself the target of the killer in her waking moments.
Hoping to protect both his family and his love, Mason takes Rachel and an assorted batch of relatives to a winter wonderland chalet, complete with water park, skiing and sleigh rides. It looks like they will have a merry holiday after all – until the killing starts once more.
What’s great about this novel is that it is completely riveting. I found myself totally engrossed in everything that was happening on the page. I was worried about Mason’s nephews after the last book – how were they adapting to life without their dad? I loved seeing them here, bonding with Rachel, her niece and her dog and watching that bring a bit of healing to their lives. I also loved getting the sense of just how much Mason and Rachel belong together and how great it would be to unite their families. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting their love story and watching their slightly more whole selves work out any kinks that might keep them from staying together.
The magic of the book is that the characters, even snarky Rachel, are fun to be around. You catch yourself caught up in everything that is happening to them. I liked going to the winter wonderland along with their family, watching them enjoy themselves – and getting a mild taste for my own coming holiday. And I initially enjoyed the mystery.
I say initially because the mystery is where the magic of this novel falls apart. About halfway through the book I figured out who was committing the crimes – and found myself desperately hoping I was completely wrong. It’s not that I minded knowing the whodunit early. It was that the culprit was so totally over the top ludicrous. I kept thinking that the author would never go there, that it would be too asinine for words and that I was getting worked up over a red herring. Oh, how I wish that had been the case. In the end it was like watching a lovely afghan come undone just as you are finishing – you can’t believe all that time and effort can unravel within minutes. The same thing happened to the plotting here and it left a bit of a bitter taste when looking back upon the book.
Which is what made the grading so difficult. On the one hand the ride to the end is a joyous one. The characterization is good, the romance is solid, everything happening engrossing. On the other you feel a bit cheated by how it all plays out. For many readers the kookiness of the ending won’t mitigate the fun of reading the tale. In that case, you might grade the story much higher. But for those to whom the intricacy of the mystery is what makes a book and the ending of that plays a large part in the appreciation of it, then this tale might well wind up not working for you at all.
In the end I chose the grade I did because I thought it best captured the entire ride. You must decide for yourself if that ride sounds like it will be worth where it lands you.