(25. - 1050.) In the Dark by Loreth Anne White - Big city homicide detective, RCMP Sgt. Mason Deniaud, is now in charge of the 3 officer detachment at Kluhane Bay in remote northern British Columbia. His transfer was prompted by unstated actions that could have meant dismissal from the force. I refuse to say he is in exile. The isolated areas of our vast nation need skilled professionals and offer wonderful lifestyles, especially for those who love outdoor life. I was disappointed with his attitude that after a couple of years “in these backwoods” he can return to urban Canada to do “serious crime work”. Deniaud is also irritated that the residents had sought to retain their well respected, even loved, previous Sergeant.
As the book opens he is interviewing the survivor of a disaster. Two weeks earlier 8 people, including their guide, met at the floatplane dock of the Thunderbird Lodge. The name and gender of the survivor is not revealed.
The story shifts to the discovery 5 days after the rendezvous of the discovery of a crashed floatplane. Deniaud, with the aid of Constable Birken “Hubb” Hubble goes to the site. They can see it is recent but there are no current reports of missing aircraft.
At the scene Deniaud, who has hid his fear of heights, is trying to see the plane when a branch breaks and he tumbles down to a ledge where the plane is precariously perched. Sliding on the ledge as he tries to move makes the plane unstable. Just as the plane slips into the river he is grabbed by Callie Sutton, head of the Kluhane Lake Search and Rescue (SAR). Uncomfortable with heights myself it was a heart pounding scene.
The story goes further back in October to the gathering of a group of executives and an aging private investigator to fly-in to a new exclusive lodge. The nine have been invited to experience the lodge and discuss potential business contracts for the services needed by the lodge such as catering (Monica accompanied by her husband Nathan), housekeeping (Deborah), promotion (Katie), transportation (Bart) and security (Jackie). An unusual aspect of the lodge is that it is to host wealthy individuals wanting to recuperate in isolation from cosmetic surgery (Steven). It did not add up as a plausible business but it was possible. Before leaving the investigator (Dan) falls sick and cannot fly with them. Stella Daguerre is the pilot of the Beaver floatplane transporting the group.
On their arrival they find the Forest Shadow Wilderness Resort & Spa is not a luxurious resort. It is a huge empty house.
Each member of the nine thinks they recognize at least one other person. Cryptic thoughts of dark secrets occupy their minds.
Unease edges towards panic when they realize they were duped into coming and then learn the plane’s radio has been sabotaged and bad weather may keep them there for a week or more. Canada remains a nation where there are abundant locations for completely isolating a group.
They find a copy of Agatha Christie’s book, Ten Little Indians, on the coffee table. In the book is a paper with a poem about “Nine Little Liars” who die one by one until there is but one. A light shiver went through me.
With all of the group harbouring deep secrets each is on edge. Gradually the secrets are revealed as individuals start to confess their sins. A collection of guilty consciences is a dangerous mix.
In town in early November the SAR is assembled to search for the missing group. Bad weather grounds aircraft. They will have to use 4 wheel drive vehicles and boats. Weather and mountainous terrain make for a dangerous search.
Callie and Deniaud find an unexpected connection. Both are dealing with spousal tragedies involving accidents. I can relate to the lifetime consequences of an accident involving a spouse.
Back at the lodge the group is unraveling. Logic is lost amidst the suspicion and tension. Each cannot stop thinking about the poem. Are they going to die one by one? Is it some macabre re-enactment of Ten Little Indians?
I was drawn into the desperation of the group. They know panic is their enemy but their minds are losing touch with logic.
The pace accelerates. Can Deniaud and the SAR team rescue the group? Will there be only one survivor?
The tension is intense. I almost started racing through the pages to find out what happened.
The ending was uncompromising and unsettling.
It took some concentration in reading for, with each of the group being a narrator, there are a lot of voices.
Callie is an appealing character. Strong in body and spirit she is a leader. She is coping with her sorrow. If I were lost in the forest I would want her looking for me.
It is a very good book. When I wrote my post on the hardest book to put down of the shortlist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel I placed In the Dark third. Had I read another 50 pages before making the decision it would have been first.