Dark Objects (2022) by Simon Toyne

The London mansion was as secure as it could possibly be. Surrounded by security cameras, entry required both a lengthy code as well as a fingerprint check. Yet inside, a woman lies dead. Brutally stabbed, she is found lying on the floor – posed, it seems, surrounded by four objects, one of which is the bible of forensics written by Dr Laughton Rees.

Laughton lives a troubled life. After witnessing the murder of her mother, she has struggled to get back on track, if only to give her own daughter a chance at life. Working at university, she only works on cold cases – until she becomes part of one.

Now it seems that Laughton is integral to the killer’s plans. Past sins cannot, it seems, be forgiven. But many people carry such a burden…

And the short straw for “Next book after a blooming masterpiece” goes to Dark Objects. It’s a new novel by an author who I’ve not encountered before. Why this one? Well, I was a little lured in the blurb which hinted at a locked room mystery. Hinted, rather than claimed, otherwise I’d have blasted that aspect to high heavens, as it’s obvious how the killer got in. But it’s an aspect of the plot that isn’t particularly important, so we’ll give that a free pass.

There are a couple of particular reasons why I can recommend this one. First of all, there was a point about a third of the way through. I suddenly realised that not an awful lot had happened, plot-wise, apart from the initial murder, and despite this, I was enjoying the book. It never felt like it was moving slowly, even when, with regard to the investigation, it was. The second is the ending, which I did not see coming at all.

All in all, it’s a good read. There are a couple of moments when the author takes the opportunity to get on his soapbox about knife crime and how it’s dealt, but as I basically agree with everything he says, that’s not a problem for me. One thing that I didn’t think necessary was one chapter where the newspaper reporter who’s an integral part of the plot shows just how unpleasant he is. Given that overall subject matter, this is a great example of providing darkness without ever having to be explicit – apart from this one chapter. It came across as a little jarring against the rest of the narrative.

Overall though, this is a very effective thriller, a real page-turner, with some excellent choices at the end. Readers who buy it from the Amazon description of “A gripping new 2022 crime thriller with an Irish detective and female investigator” might be in for a bit of a shock with the “Irish” bit though.

Dark Objects is out on July 7th from Harper Collins in hardback and ebook. Many thanks for the review e-copy via NetGalley.

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