Monday, April 23, 2018

Book: The Dark Divide by D. K. Stone

From the opening paragraphs to the final word, Ms. Stone creates and maintains the perfect pace.

She starts with the right touch of history - enough to be ominous but not tiresome. Then she includes throwaway details - Hunter and his coffee mugs, Rich pumping gas to the nearest dollar, Susan burning eggs because she answered the door - to make these people come alive, make them real. She ends with a soupcon of hope.

Rich's life is still in turmoil, with the aftermath of the fire nipping at his heels, the main story opening with calling the courtroom to order, only in the Canadian way (which was an interesting contrast to the US way), and the suspense in The Dark Divide continues to ratchet higher and higher. Who will testify at the preliminary hearing? Will Rich be bound over for trial? Who will be subpoenaed on behalf of the prosecution? Who the hell is Alistair Diarmuid, and why is Lou the only person in town who likes him?

But as crucial to the future as the court proceedings are, the story here is really about Louise Newman, and about Rich Evans only as his life intersects with Lou's. And frankly, that feels appropriate. Lou's stories are less omnipresent in The Dark Divide, but more on the mark, and there are fascinating responses in her listeners. At one point, I wrote to myself, "Why does Rich not see that Lou's telling him about herself with each and every story?" Little hints are dropped here and there about Lou, her childhood, her "knowing," and for me there is some satisfaction in learning these new things, while at the same time I'm eager to know the rest of her story.

As much as Rich does, I grow frustrated with Lou's inability to tell Rich straight out what her deal is. Then I want to smack her for revealing a big thing at precisely the wrong moment. I'm equally frustrated with Rich: One of my notes says, "What bug crawled up his ass?" These two personify the old rhyme about the little girl - when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid. When things are right between Rich and Lou, the story settles into a happy place. When things are going wrong, sometimes one after the other, it seems impossible to believe they'll come back from this. Even as I'm ready to snatch either one of them bald-headed, though, I never stop rooting for these two kids to work it out.

Ms. Stone's ability to create fables, or fable-like tales, to suit circumstances in the story, is remarkable. There's always a little something which makes me ask, "How do you DO that?" In this case, it was the story about the God of Death. A couple of hundred years ago, it would have been her voice we listened to around the fire in the dark, the atmosphere soothing or crackling with every tale from our collective pasts. She's got a gift.

Despite the fact that the overarching mystery is "resolved" by book's end, I'm beyond excited about the third book. I have no doubt it'll be as suspenseful as the first two, with plenty of surprises along the way.

Go. Read. You'll be glad you did. And if for some reason you haven't read Edge of Wild, hie thyself to your crack dealer of choice.