Friday, August 21, 2009

“The Dark Place” by Sam Millar is the second in the series of Karl Kane novels. Like “Bloodstorm” the first novel in the series, “The Dark Place” takes place in a post conflict Belfast. The city is suffering under a sweltering heat wave when Karl Kane, private investigator, is visited by a young woman asking him to find her troubled younger sister who has run away from a hostel she was resident in.

The premises of the novel is that a serial killer is on the loose in Belfast city. He is wealthy, influential and charming. He preys on young girls, runaways who are both homeless and drug addicts. The police are not unduly concerned, and are initially dismissive of the case. It is only when Karl Kane’s daughter Katie, is abducted that they are forced to act. Kane’s brother in law is non other that Police Inspector Mark Wilson. To further complicate matters Kane is divorced from Wilson’s sister and the two men hold each other in complete and utter contempt. The scenes where Karl Kane an Inspector Wilson verbally joust are incredibly well written and you get the sense that here are two characters who really can’t abide the sight of each other.

Millar is very graphic, at times shockingly so, in his descriptions of the incarceration and tortures the young victims of the killer are forced to endure. Some readers will find themselves repulsed others will be drawn hypnotically into the dark subterranean world.

Throughout the dark shadows of the troubles are omnipresent, their cries echo throughout the novel. Millar however avoids the pitfalls of commenting on the past and coming down on one side or other in the conflict. His characters skate around the past and are content for the most part not to comment on their previous actions.

“The Dark Places” is you’re a typical noir crime novel. A corrupt police force, a society gone wrong and a private investigator battling his own demons from the past. A hard man who sometimes successfully hides his past Karl Kane walks what can be safely described as the hardest streets in Europe.

It may help the reader to have read the first novel in the series for background into private investigator’s Karl Kane’s past, but it will not be wholly necessary. Millar introduces the history of Kane with excellence and rather than breaking the narrative such flashbacks only adds colour to the story.

Karl Kane is a character the reader cannot help but warm to. He’s fond of putting a few pound on the horses and inevitably looses more than he wins. He also harbors ambitions to be a writer and elicits our sympathy when he receives a letter from an old school mate, now a successful crime writer, rebuffing his attempts at writing. You get the feeling that such a rebuff may have happened Sam Millar. It cut’s too close to the bone.

With almost fifty chapters, the action in the novel rips along. With “The Dark Places” Sam Millar has confirmed himself as an exciting talent on the Irish Crime scene.


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