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by John Baker
Orion, June 2002
314 pages
5.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752847988

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sam Turner has established a level of security and comfort in his life that has been hard won. After having battled alcoholism, he set up his own detective agency. He's surrounded by folks who have been with him for a while, who have a loyalty to him and each other. The only thing missing is that special "someone" in his life, but that's a gap that's usually filled by his friends and co-workers.

His outlook changes, however, when Angeles Falco enters his life. Angeles is distraught because she thinks that she and her sister, Isabel, are being stalked. Since Angeles is blind, she cannot provide the kind of details that most clients would. Angeles' worst fears are realized when her sister is killed. There doesn't seem to be any valid reason for someone to be targeting either of the sisters, but several events transpire which indicate Angeles is in grave danger. After an interrupted murder attempt, Sam has Angeles move into his home so that he can better protect her. He feels an undeniable attraction to her, but his main focus is on stopping the killer before he strikes again.

In the meantime, one of the people that works for Sam, Geordie, is involved with some family issues of his own. He is living happily with his wife, Janet, and their baby, Echo, when his long-lost brother, Ralph, shows up at his doorstep. They haven't seen each other since their teens, and Geordie is ecstatic over the idea of renewing their bond. The trouble is that Ralph is a ne'er-do-well and all-around creep. He keeps hitting on Janet, who doesn't want to disillusion Geordie about his brother. But the situation rapidly becomes intolerable.

The stories intertwine, as Janet becomes a pivotal person who is tangentially involved in Angeles' plight. She and Angeles have hit it off, and Janet has a way of showing up on her doorstep at the best and worst of times. There are several chapters written from the villain's point of view, and what a chilling character he is! He's an intelligent man who lives with a woman who shares his tastes for sadistic sex. He calls himself the "watchman", but it isn't until the denouement that we find out why he has singled out Angeles and her sister.

I liked the book very much, but there were a few things that didn't quite work for me. First of all, Baker has the tendency to go off on digressions that take you out of the narrative flow, especially with the character of JD, who is a new addition to the Turner agency. Secondly, as the book concluded, the scene was set for a suspenseful revelation. I felt the action was overly rushed in an effort to achieve dramatic tension. It didn't have the same pacing as the rest of the book and felt oddly unfinished as a result. Too much happened too quickly without adequate elaboration.

SHOOTING IN THE DARK is an excellent entry in the Sam Turner series. All of the series regulars are involved, and Baker wisely devotes just enough time to each of them to have them continue to develop from book to book. Celia, Marie, JD and, of course, Geordie, all seem very real. Their obvious caring for one another is a nice counterbalance to the evil and depraved acts that are depicted in the book. It was also fascinating to see how Angeles handled her blindness and how Sam adapted to her needs. Add in a complex plot, a chilling villain, wonderfully descriptive writing and you've got the recipe for an extremely engaging read! If you haven't read this series yet, do yourself a favor and start out with POET IN THE GUTTER. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, November 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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