Written by Dianne Gallagher — You might not have heard of self-published author Dianne Gallagher, but if the quality of her debut crime novel Too Dark to Sleep is anything to go by, her name will spread quickly in crime fiction loving circles. It’s the first in a proposed series of dark thrillers.
Freshly released after a lengthy stay in a psychiatric hospital, and with long, deep scars snaking from each wrist, Maggie Quinn is a woman damaged in every sense of the word. Not so long ago, she was the best detective in the Chicago PD, but that was before the sudden death of her only child sent her spiralling into the depths of despair and to the very edge of madness.
Now, her little daughter, Erin, haunts her tortured dreams, walking hand in hand with a faceless man who featured in Maggie’s last, unsolved investigation. This was a man who strangled and then butchered two woman in a clinical manner, devoid of emotion, and who was never captured.
Now he’s back, and Maggie is the only person who can catch him. But is this fragile, lost woman up to the task? How can a former detective who is terrified of the dark be any help at all when there’s a stone cold killer on the loose? Many of her former colleagues dismiss Maggie as a nut-job, but rookie Detective Nick Dublowski is ordered to use her as a consultant on the case, and he comes to see her as an asset rather than a liability. For, once Maggie gets back into work mode, she is just as razor sharp and tenacious as she ever was before tragedy struck. Rejuvenated and fired with purpose, she is hell-bent on getting her man this time – whether the evidence is there or not.
As the net closes in, an escalation of murders brings the case uncomfortably close to Maggie herself. She is certain she’s got her man, but as her fragile sanity begins to show signs of crumbling, her colleagues are increasingly unsure of her judgment. Did he really do it? Or is Maggie’s tormented mind pushing her to ruin the life of an innocent man?
This is a fine debut from Dianne Gallagher, and in Maggie Quinn she has created a true one-off with as many layers as an onion. She is a complex character, but one with whom you’ll bond with from first acquaintance. I loved the contrasts in Maggie – she was a hard-bitten detective who had seen and done it all in her job, but because of the traumas she has faced now has to live in the light as she is completely terrified of darkness, both real and imaginary. The descriptions of her creeping fears are sharp and realistically drawn – so much so that I found myself checking the shadows myself!
This book is populated with a cast of hugely believeable supporting characters who include rookie Dublowski, Maggie’s nurse and companion Antoine Rayney, her jailbird father Paddy, and Medical Examiner Harley. Meanwhile Too Dark to Sleep has a plot which is well thought out and cleverly executed, with shocks and surprises in abundance.
It was with regret that I reached the last page of this book because I really enjoyed my time spent with Maggie, even though I had to keep all the lights on! More please.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars