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Author Topic: In The Dark  (Read 33797 times)
Jayne
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« Reply #90 on: November 15, 2008 »

Why, thank you, sir.
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Vikki
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« Reply #91 on: November 19, 2008 »

Have just finished reading In The Dark today and have to say that it's brilliant, had me hooked from the start! Same terrific writing from Mark as usual  Grin
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xx Vikki xx Smiley

clashcityrocker
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« Reply #92 on: November 28, 2008 »

It must be both liberating and daunting for an established author to approach his work from a slightly different angle. Daunting because of the inherent risks in introducing a whole new batch of characters; liberating in that continuity is no longer an issue.
Arguably there is a slight shift in perspective as here as, notwithstanding the fact that several of the principal characters are police officers, this is much less of a traditional police procedural than its predecessors.

Essentially In he Dark is a brilliantly plotted novel with the pivotal incident taking place in the opening chapter, thereby establishing the plot upon which all preceding and subsequent events hang. What is hugely impressive and significant here is that the reader is from the offset made aware of the most dramatic aspect of the novel - the crash. However, the tension is constructed after the actual event itself. Details are sparingly revealed to us both retrospectively and subsequently. We are taken back three weeks earlier are skilfully duped into concluding precisely who was involved in the actual crash. Why were a group of teenage gangbangers involved in the death of an off duty policeman who may or may not be on the take? Accident or murder? Extraordinary plotting here as the past catches up with the present quite seamlessly and characters are gradually fleshed out as the narrative splinters into different directions.

Mark Billingham has established London as his own turf as much as Ian Rankin has with Edinburgh, George Pelecanos has with Washington DC, and Micheal Connelly has with Los Angeles. However, the British capital that Mark evokes has nothing to do with the Changing of the Guard, the Houses of Parliament, the Tate Gallery or afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace. Rather, we are confronted with areas of cumulative urban decay, where within these paint peeling and graffiti spattered ghettos the demand for weapons and drugs negates civic pride and, in many cases, parental responsibility. Knife culture is in the ascendancy and slashes into the fabric of communities already riven with crime. Drugs and its ugly sister prostitution are the only growth industries. Within this context of this inner city dilapidation, Mark is honest enough to suggest that, for a variety of reasons, both social and geographical, the drug culture and the violence it engenders, is a predominantly though not exclusively, black phenomenon. I think the author adroitly steps into George Pelecanos territory here as it is tacitly acknowledged that the young men responsible for the relatively mundane crimes can merge and bleed into the more organised gangs and rise within the hierarchical structures therein. Moreover, it is frequently the case that a kind of anti social, social mobility is one of the few career paths open to them. However, like Pelecanos, Mark does not absolve his characters of personal responsibilities. They do have choices, however limited they may be. Iím grateful that Mark resisted the temptation to balance the negative proclivities of some of the black characters by introducing a black role model because this kind of tokenism is ludicrously patronising to an intelligent readership. Crime does not run on racial lines.

Theo is a finely drawn character. He is little more than a child himself, burdened with a child of which he has the paternal instinct to protect and nurture, but lacks the emotional maturity to provide. Uniquely amongst his peers he feels compassion for his victim and does, in his own verbally ham-fisted manner, attempt to atone for the crime. At one point during the novel it was assumed that Paul was corrupt and in thrall to local gangsters. At the same time the reasons for Theoís life choices was made apparent. In many ways the teenager was, arguably, reluctant participant in the actions of his gang. He was cajoled into shooting the gun and was appalled at the brutality his compatriots inflicted on the prostitutes. The reader is invited here to make moral comparisons on what we were led to believe was a corrupt cop and a naive and foolish, though not evil, young man. Of course subsequent revelations render such observations and possible conclusions redundant. Another character who shines particularly brightly is, of course, Helen. Like Theo, she is a flawed though essentially decent person. Because of her infidelity and consequent uncertainty regarding the parent of her child, she occupies that horrid in-a-strained-relationship territory much exacerbated by the vulnerability her pregnant state effects. Despite this, the unfaithful Helen is by far the most resourceful and likeable character here, with the possible exception of Theo.

I was never sure, until the denouement, whether or not Paul would be revealed as on the take or not because there was enough ambiguity about him for either scenario to be feasible. Furthermore, I expected Kevin Shephard to have a far more crucial role to play in the novel. That said, itís a testament to Markís skill that it was difficult if not impossible to second-guess the plot.

So, is this Markís finest novel? In my view I would say that it is for the following reasons. In essence this is his most complex novel in terms of plot and the characterisation is suitably credible; no crime author plying his trade writes more convincing dialogue. His policemen speak like policemen and his urban teenagers articulate with a compelling street swagger and suss; furthermore, Mark does not compromise his characters by allowing them to display the kind of eloquence Stephen Fry would envy. A small but significant point here as lesser authors, infuriatingly, tend to fall into this trap.  Finally, the social commentary and realism here is what elevates this novel greatness. In The Dark shines a glaring and unflatterring light on many areas of England's capital that those responsible for its upkeep and long overdue urban regeneration would prefer to be kept in the shadows. Brilliant novel.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2008 by Mark » Logged

Jayne
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« Reply #93 on: November 28, 2008 »

Dave, I don't know whether you've ever considered writing a novel yourself, but you should really give it some thought. You are an incredibly talented writer and I'm not just saying that because I love you to bits. Seriously, you are.
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kevindj
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« Reply #94 on: November 29, 2008 »

I agree that Dave's reviews and short stories are excellent, Jayne, but possibly a career as a critic of novels in a newspaper may be the best way forward, if he decides to do down that route on a more than part-time basis?

That said, though, Dave, a thoroughly excellent review, lacking for very little, if nothing.
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Mary
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« Reply #95 on: November 29, 2008 »

Bloody hell Dave - that is jaw droppingly good! 

Not sure if you have done reviews for a wider audience, but I would sincerely hope that, if not, you might pursue this avenue.
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kevindj
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« Reply #96 on: November 29, 2008 »

I'm sure he wouldn't blow his own trumpet too loudly, 'cos Our Dave's a modest lad, but I'm pretty sure he gets some of his book reviews published fairly regularly in the Sunderland Echo, Mary, hence my comments about doing it on a bit more than a part-time basis. Smiley
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Mary
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« Reply #97 on: November 29, 2008 »

Thanks for the info Kevin - sorry I didn't quite pick up the jist of your post first time! 
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scary claire
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« Reply #98 on: November 29, 2008 »

Excellent review, as ever, Dave  Smiley
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clashcityrocker
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« Reply #99 on: November 30, 2008 »

Thanks for the kind words Mary, Jayne, Kev and Claire, and also the lovely PM from Mark.
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stewtaz
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« Reply #100 on: March 28, 2009 »

Just finished Mark's latest novel today and i think i am with everyone in the fact that i thought it was brilliant, when i first heard that it was a standalone i was a bit unsure, if only for the fact that i didn't want to wait another year to read another Thorne adventure, but i thought it was excellent. Can't understand why so many people struggled with the Laura twist though as i thought Mark made it fairly obvious on the last few pages. Can't wait for the next book now after reading the teasing first chapter.
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Mark
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« Reply #101 on: March 29, 2009 »

Thanks, Stewtaz, really glad you enjoyed it.

As it happens, because a number of people DID struggle with the Laura "twist", I put a couple of extra lines into the paperback to clarify things a bit. If you've read the tease for BLOODLINE, then that's the version you've read...

Mark
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"If it's going badly, get off. If it's going well...get off."

stewtaz
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« Reply #102 on: March 29, 2009 »

Damm! I'm not as clever as i thought then! lol

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scary claire
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« Reply #103 on: March 29, 2009 »

As it happens, because a number of people DID struggle with the Laura "twist", I put a couple of extra lines into the paperback to clarify things a bit.

Does that happen often then?
I just assumed that the only difference between the hardback and paperback was the format.
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tzara
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« Reply #104 on: March 29, 2009 »

  no.10  new entry in the Guardian PB weekly charts   Grin  Yea!  watch it climb...
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If you want to be happy... be.

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