Published: 1st February 2016
Publisher: Random House Australia
Format: Paperback (purchased)
An adrenaline-pumping suspense novel from the author of Beyond Fear. What do you do when your nightmares are real – and no one believes you?
Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she’s determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind.
However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.
Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It’s on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside.
With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it’s all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn’t so appealing when you’re scared to go to sleep . . .
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, it’s pitch black but you could have sworn there was someone in your room? Now what if that kept happening…. and there was someone actually there? What if no one believed you? That what if – well it just became Carly’s reality.
Carly Townsend has only recently moved into her new warehouse apartment in Wickham, Newcastle. New to area she knows no one, and that’s precisely why she chose the area. You see, Carly Townsend’s life has been anything but easy, and everyone needs a break from prying eyes and haunting pasts once in awhile. So Carly brought an apartment in a suburb she knew nothing about believing it was her chance to escape a little, get her life back on track and learn to live again. And it does for a while, until it all goes horribly wrong. One night, not too long after moving in, Carly wakes in the middle of the night with the distinct feeling that someone is in her apartment. But not just in her living space, but standing over her while she sleeps. Terrified she calls the cops, like any sane person would do, and so the story begins.
I can pretty much sum up this book in two words: terrifyingly addictive. If you’ve seen my social media pages, or the blog, you know I went crazy about this book. Not only is it a captivating and addictive read that has you racing to turn the pages, but there is this lingering and eerie sense of unease that follows the reader throughout the novel. You never know who to trust, or where to look. I broke out in goosebumps on multiple occasions while reading the narrative. I also wanted to sleep with the light on!
In many ways this book is terrifying in just how mundane and common the fear is and crime could be. We’ve all woken up at some point during our lives swearing that there was someone in our room – at the foot of our bed, behind the door, etc -, that simply wasn’t there. We’ve all experienced adrenaline pumping so fast through our body that we simply can’t decide whether to run or stay as still as a statue in the hope that they might just leave. We’ve all turned the light on at least once. Some of us – myself included – have even left the light on. We also all know just how irrational the fear is, and that in most cases in reality there is nothing there other than an overworked and over-active imagination. I know mine is the worst. But what makes the narrative even more terrifying is the added dimension that Carly can feel the stranger’s breath in her ear, and feel their body pressed up alongside hers. What’s more, the night-time freak outs become more and more frequent over time, and to make matters worse, with each visit, less and less people start to believe the ‘crazy new girl’ with the wild imagination. So now not only is the narrative terrifying in the way that it could happen to any of us on any of these occasions, but its now just damn plain creepy and disturbing with the physical aspects!
This evoking of terror and the concept of just how common this fear and possibility could just be, makes this novel even more addictive to read. Because now not only is the story fast paced, snappy and a little unnerving, but we know exactly what Carly is going through due to our own experiences and can’t imagine what it is like to live it day in and day out. I mean your home is supposed to be ‘your place’, that one spot where you can come home to and relax and veg out and just be who you are. It’s where you feel most secure. It’s where you feel safe. But when the recurring events that Carly faces keep happening, you can’t help but wonder what it is that made her stay. Before you know it, you are so invested in getting Carly out of their alive and to prove what is happening to her isn’t simply in her head, that your racing through the book accusing character’s left, right and centre and screaming at Carly to run the other way from particular people…. who may or may not end up to be real or the bad ‘person’.
Given the thriller aspects and criminal nature of this fear (and the narrative) it doesn’t take the reader long to become suspicious of everyone around Carly. Quite early on in the novel, I found myself questioning the motives of other characters including her neighbours and the police investigating the intrusions. But when Carly’s painful and traumatic past is brought to life (and this isn’t a spoiler because it happens right at the beginning) I couldn’t help but start to question Carly. Given her past, and the constant night time visits, the police findings and the pure context and situation of the crime, I started to wonder if Carly really was the most reliable narrator? Or was there something deeper psychologically going on there with her and her surrounds. Of course that just meant I started analysing everyone around Carly and her actions even more and it made myself question what would I do, should I ever find myself in the same situation. To be honest, I still don’t really know the answer to that.
As far as characterisation goes, I think Jaye Ford really nailed every aspect of the characters in this book. Carly/Charlotte Townsend was a complex character who almost had two split identities. Charlotte of the old – a bright bubbly young adult devastated by the mistakes of the past and now the classic damsel-in-distress heroine – Vs Carly – a strong female lead who despite being frightened, traumatised and almost out of her mind with fear, won’t take what is happening to her (real or imagined) sitting down. It’s Carly that fights back despite the inner Charlotte wanting to sit down and cry and wait for the narrative’s hero to come and sweep her off her feet and save her. In some ways, it’s this split character and the underlying wavering question of what is and isn’t real that heightens the narrative and makes the whole incident and situation so much more suspect, and suspenseful. I also loved the inverting of character type casting and typical narratives from where the male hero is the one expected to save the heroine from the big bad world. Without giving too much away, I loved the fact that when one of the two got badly hurt, it wasn’t Carly who was laid up helpless and out of options.
Overall, Darkest Place is a thrilling and terrifyingly addicted narrative that is sure to stop you in your tracks and make you re-evaluate your preconceived ideals. There’s also a chance you will never look at a darkened room the same again.
Ideal for fans of the crime thriller genre and anyone who loves a good fast paced, snappy read that will leave you second guessing everyone and trusting no one. Oddly enough (despite it not being a psychological thriller) I believe fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep would enjoy this novel for its thriller complexities without some of the more nasty, over the top elements that dominate those books (particular the former one). It’s almost like a pared back, Australian crime version that still has plenty of substance and content to keep the reader on their toes. Or in this book’s case, sleeping with one eye open…