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Maclean, Charles - 'Home Before Dark'
Hardback: 480 pages (June 2008) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd ISBN: 0340951494

The publisher describes this book as "The Year's Most Chilling Thriller" and I would describe it as very creepy indeed.

Ed Lister and his wife, have suffered the tragic loss of their daughter, Sophie, when she was murdered a year previously in Florence, Italy where she was studying art. Ed is a millionaire businessman and can't rest and grieve properly until he has exhausted every possible lead to the identity of his daughter's killer. The Italian police have spent a lot of time and investigated as many leads as they had, but in the absence of any new information they have wound their investigation down, much to the consternation of the parents.

Ed and his wife are in Florence on the anniversary of her death and are in contact with a friend of Sophie's, who has discovered a drawing book belonging to her dead friend. One of the major drawings is of a house, which leads to a website "". Unknown to Ed, the killer of his daughter has installed a trojan on Ed's laptop so that the killer can read all of Ed's incoming and outgoing email. The friend of the daughter is in email correspondence with Ed and she is investigating the significance of the "homebeforedark" website and this puts her life in danger.

Ed is taken on a mysterious journey, firstly in Florence then onto Paris, then London and finally New York. He hires an American computer analyst to investigate the mysteries surrounding the website and he goes off on a separate journey. After many pages of red herrings and other subterfuges the novel ends very satisfactorily.

I thought this novel read very much as if the author is expecting to sell its film rights, with the multiple locations and the cyber internet references and email discussions. I couldn't accept the plot device of the grieving father detecting the unsolved murder of his daughter. You would expect the police to be more involved. It was a very long book to read with a very slow build up of tension and, unfortunately for the reader, it needed that many pages to make the characters believable. I personally don't like this style of book, a "psychological thriller", so perhaps I'm naturally biased against it. I wouldn't read books by, say, Thomas Harris and I won't read any more by this author, but I'm sure it will be very popular with those that enjoy a bit of terror in their reading.

Terry Halligan, England
January 2009

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 30/01/2009 15:02