Thursday, January 6, 2022

A Flicker in the Dark

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
1/11/22; 368 pages
Minotaur Books

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham is a highly recommended atmospheric thriller.

Chloe Davis is now a psychologist in Baton Rouge, but twenty years ago, when she was twelve, her father went to prison for the murder of six teenage girls in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Her father confessed, plead guilty to the crimes, and is serving six consecutive life sentences. The actions of her father resulted in devastation for her family and repercussions still affect her, her brother Cooper, and her mother today. Chloe has tried to move on and now, with the date of her wedding to Daniel approaching soon, she is hopeful to lead a normal life. As the 20th anniversary of her father’s crimes approaches, New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen calls wanting to interview her and begins to break her fragile hold on happiness. When a local teen goes missing, Chloe begins to see parallels with her father's crimes and begins to worry that a copycat killer has chosen the upcoming 20th anniversary to mimic her father's crimes?

The narrative alternates between following Chloe's first-person account in the present and flashbacks to her childhood twenty years ago. Chloe's post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, and anxiety become increasingly obvious and the tension rises incrementally as the story unfolds. It is clear that Chloe has not really recovered from her childhood trauma as she continues to look with suspicions at those around her and relies on self-medicating to reduce her anxiety and fears. This also will make you question her reliability. The plot indicates that the guilty party could be one of several people around her.

Chloe is the only character who is portrayed realistically. As we are privy to her thoughts and actions, she is developed as a complicated character who is sympathetic, unpredictable and flawed. Clearly she is trying to overcome her childhood trauma, but it is still fresh in her mind.

This is a well written debut novel for Willingham that will hold your attention throughout. Some readers will know what is happening early in the novel as I did, but there are enough misleading clues and suspects to keep you engrossed in the plot developments and begin to doubt yourself. The setting in Louisiana provides an atmospheric backdrop to the plot.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Minotaur Books.

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