Darkside is the second novel by Belinda Bauer that I’ve been reading and since I enjoyed reading the first one, Blacklands, a lot and rated it with as many as five stars, I put my expectations very high. The story is set in the same Exmoor village as Blacklands and it starts with a local bobby, Jonas Holly, who is called to the suspicious death of Margaret Priddy. He calls in the Taunton Crime Squad and hands over the investigation to DCI Marvel. DCI Marvel treats Holly as an idiot instead of using him as a valuable member of the team since Holly is trustworthy to the villagers. Holly starts his own investigation but he lacks confidence and when he starts receiving anonymous notes questioning his work he is beset with self-doubt. When it looks like there is as serial killer in the village who is after elderly and disabled people, Holly is worrying that his own wife might be in danger.
To me this second Bauer novel falls short of my expectations. I agree, it is rather difficult to write two five star novels in a row. The start of Darkside was promising. It is gripping and very well paced from beginning to end. The story is well told with strong characters and unexpected twists. No characters are extremely sympathetic. As the story unfolded, I didn’t know which character was worse. DCI Marvel, an arrogant and bullying man or Holly, who doesn’t seem to have a will of his own and accepts all humiliation. Only Lucy, Holly’s wife, is gentle and likable. The main reason why I rate this book with four stars instead of five is because about halve of the way through the book I guessed who the killer was. Nevertheless, Darkside is sure worth reading.