I have not kept a running list of all the mysteries I have read—hundreds and hundreds, to be sure, but every time I begin a new one, there is an indefinable “something” that makes me want to continue reading. In Chrinda Jones’ debut crime novel Darkness Knows Me, that something had me punching the Kindle’s pad in a fury as I raced through the story.
Det. Sgt. Olivia Gates has returned to her hometown, Dallas, Texas, to live with her retired father, G. W., following the death of her mother; she brings with her Seth, her seven year old son, and tons of baggage. Dr. Will Green, a friend from New York, has come to Dallas to interview for a criminal psychology position at a local university, and he becomes Olivia’s second set of eyes at three consecutive, almost identical murder scenes. The murders are staged, with slit throats, blood drained from the bodies, and arranged with the use of a pulley system to resemble a crucifixion, and each body has a measure of cheese heroin in or on it.
(As a side note, cheese heroin is an orangey-colored more affordable kind of heroin than is normally sold on the streets. Since it is cheaper and more easily available, it has caused an epidemic of users, especially among teens and pre-teens in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area.)
Gates quickly realizes that the murders have a religious element to them and endeavors to solve the puzzle that will stop the brutal killings. Dr. Green nicknames the killer “Abraham” because of the murderer’s rationalization that the killings are a kind of sacrifice. Of great interest to me as a reader were the interspersing chapters on the killer himself—his background, his abuse in the name of religion, and his progress toward forgiveness and redemption.
His childhood and all the things associated with it were dominated by the fanaticism of religion, swamp lore and family loyalty. Any normalcy he could manage to hold for himself was eventually contaminated by fear, revenge and death.
Playing against Gates and her long held religious convictions and that of the killer, Jones weaves a real us vs. them scenario, drawing you in bit by bit, and the finale will have you turning the pages as quickly as you can! In Texas-speak, a real humdinger!
As Gates and Green move further into the investigation, you begin to see that their relationship becomes more intense than at the start of the book. In New York, Green was once Gates’ neighbor, and there is more than a little evidence that there was a romantic element involved. In a sort of push me, pull me, Green just cannot commit to Gates in the way she would like, and although there is certainly respect and friendship, is there a future here for these two?
I understand that Jones is planning to make this a series, which is a wonderful idea, as I am sure her many readers would like to know more about these main characters and how their relationship develops over time. Oh, and I certainly want to learn more about Dr. Verna Benton, the bear-claw loving medical examiner—what a hoot!
(Jones’ novel is currently available as an e-book, though she has plans to publish it in paperback. Chrinda Jones is a blogger here at Readers Unbound.)