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Book Review: "Darkness First" by James Hayman

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

9780062301697_p0_v3_s260x420Darkness First by James Hayman is a thrilling mystery that has just been released in e-reader format.  This book is the third in the McCabe/Savage series.  What makes this novel stand out from other mysteries is the strong character based story with many twists and turns. 

The reader will be drawn into the gruesome plot from the first page.  After a doctor reaches out to an abused woman and follows her to attempt a rescue, the woman is murdered and the doctor is severely injured.  Also a factor in the crime is the large amount of Oxycontin Pills found. The main character, Maggie Savage, a “take no prisoners” detective, from the Maine Crimes Against the People Unit, is brought into this case by her father, Sherriff John Savage.  Because her best friend is the doctor and the murder takes place in her hometown, Maggie decides to investigate and find the killer. The one witness is the eleven-year-old sister of the abused murdered woman.

The reader will be able to use their deduction skills as they navigate the story.  There are a few suspects that will be discarded only to have them put back on the list of murderers.  What is certain is that the killer is a psychopath with an ulterior motive of making money but whose real enjoyment is inflicting pain.

Hayman told he wanted to make the novel realistic and did this by soliciting the help of Tom Joyce, the former head of Portland, Maine’s Crime Against the People Unit.  He helped with procedural facts, forensics, and the type of guns used.  “I also talked with a DEA Agent about the idea of smuggling a large portion of pills across the Canadian-US border.  He told me this would be his nightmare, using Maine as the entry point. Because of the large amount of lobster boats another boat can slip through which is what I incorporated into the plot. I wanted to make a believable plot that is character based.  Real people with real issues that have a complexity to their lives and relationships. 

One of the most likeable characters is Maggie’s brother, Harlan, a former Marine sniper who fought in Iraq and suffers from PTSD.  After he becomes a suspect Maggie is determined to find the killer to prove his innocence.  The author incorporates Harlan’s military training, skills, and traits and has him apply that to the civilian world.  In addition, Hayman wanted to give a shout-out to “those soldiers that went through the worst of the Iraq War, and had to deal with gruesome experiences.  That is why I put the quote in the book, ‘Sometimes after a roadside bomb there was nothing left of your buddies but an arm or a leg and it was tough to figure out who the hell it belonged to.’ I hope my military readers will respond positively to Harlan.”

The author also gave a heads up about his next book, also a McCabe/Savage novel that takes place in Portland, Maine.  In 1904 a wealthy family is turned upside down when the husband murders his wife.  Fast-forward to today where another murder, a copycat of the one in 1904, takes place.  McCabe and Savage are brought in to find the killer.  This one will have a lot more of Michael McCabe since in the current novel he only makes a cameo appearance.  Hayman commented, “With Darkness First I wanted it to be all about Maggie.  I wrote it from a female point of view, including the challenge of creating the view of eleven year old Tabitha.”

Darkness First is filled with many twists and turns and captivating characters.  This novel is a riveting mystery a la Michael Connelly that is fast-paced and gripping.