hello, darkness – Sandra Brown

For many years I subscribed to Entertainment Weekly and for a while Stephen King contributed a monthly column called ‘Pop of King’ where he rattled on about pop culture – movies and music and such. I love King; I love the way he writes and I love his ‘every man’ sensibilities when it comes to popular culture. Every year he did a book round up – sort of a top ten books list and I would avidly copy down the names of books I found interesting. That’s how Sandra Brown’s novel hello, darkness came to be on my tbr shelf. Actually, although the book was on my tbr list for a few years, I only just purchased it in May when I discovered it at the annual library book sale. I was familiar with Brown’s name, but hadn’t ever read anything by her.

hello, darkness is the story of reclusive radio host Paris Gibson. Every night she listens to people tell their tales of woe and plays them a song to cheer them up. And then she gets a call from a man called Valentino who tells her that his girlfriend had acted on some advice she’d given her and dumped him and now Paris is going to pay.  “I’m going to make you sorry that you gave her that advice,” he warns her. He vows to hold her, torture her and kill her within 72 hours.

The girl in question is the wild child daughter of a local judge and once the authorities know she’s missing, they bring in police psychologist Dean Malloy to help solve her disappearance and her connection to Valentino. This isn’t exactly good news for Paris. She and Dean have a history. You know what that means, right? All sorts of unfulfilled lust and crossed wires and missteps until they finally get it…um…together.

In the meantime, there are red herring subplots galore  to keep the reader guessing about Valentino’s true identity. It comes right down to the wire, and then all is resolved. I have no doubt that  fans of the genre (romantic suspense thriller) will be wildy satisfied with both the suspense and the romance. As for me – I was wondering why it made King’s top ten. Sure, it was a  decent thriller and Brown is a capable writer – but  it felt  formulaic for me.

Still, chuck it in your beach bag. It’ll kill a satisfying hour or two.

Go With Me – Castle Freeman Jr.

Lillian is a young woman who has recently moved to a small Vermont town. Early one morning, the town sheriff finds Lillian asleep in her car in the police station parking lot. She’s come for help. The town thug, Blackway, has been harrassing her; has, in fact, driven her boyfriend out of town and killed her cat. The sheriff’s advice is simple: go home.

Blackway is an enigmatic, altogether menacing, figure. The sheriff himself is afraid of him.

“You’re telling me you can’t do anything. You’re telling me I have to wait till he does something. till he gets to me, kills me, before you can do anything?”

“You could put it that way, I guess,” the sheriff said.

“How would you put it?”

“That way.”

The sheriff’s advice is to head over to the mill and find Scotty Cavanaugh because “he and Blackway have had dealings.” But Cavanaugh is not at the mill and instead Lillian solicits the help of the strange, quiet brute, Nate, and an old man named Lester to help her find and confront Blackway.

Go With Me is the strangest book I’ve read in a long time. It is both laugh-out-loud funny and strangely creepy. The book tracks Lillian and her small posse to various places where they might find Blackway, breaking the tension of their search with the commentary of the men at the mill who wonder – Greek chorus style –  at how it might all turn out.

Blackway, as it turns out, is not a man to be trifled with. He deserves his reputation. Lester is resourceful, though, and Nate “ain’t scared” and this slim book rockets along to its shocking climax.

I’d never heard of Castle Freeman Jr. before, but this book was well received and although it wasn’t really my cup of tea, it was weirdly compelling.