Review: The Darkest Hour by Katherine Howell

Title: The Darkest Hour

Author: Katherine Howell

Publisher: Pan Macmillan [2008]

ISBN: 978-0-330-42467-7

Length: 491 pages

Paramedic Lauren Yates is working alone one night when a man bolts from an alley in the heart of Sydney and she stops to see what’s going on. She stumbles upon the body of a convicted paedophile then the man’s killer, Thomas Werner, who is Lauren’s sister’s ex boyfriend and the father of her niece. He warns her to say nothing if she wants her family to be OK. Some months later, after Lauren has lied about the events she say in the alley that night, Lauren and her partner Joe are transporting a stabbed man to the hospital in their ambulance and he makes a dying declaration that the man who killed him was Thomas Werner. Detective Ella Marconi is assigned to the investigative team and realises that Lauren has something to hide when she tries to change her statement about the patient’s dying declaration.

This is the second of Howell’s books to be published and, like the first book Frantic, for me it was more about the psychology of the situations people find themselves in than a standard police procedural. Howell is a former paramedic she really captures the tension and emotion that must be a constant for people in that line of work. Some of the most compelling reading in the book is when the paramedics respond to callouts where they have little knowledge of what they’ll find. But she also, hopefully without the same first-hand knowledge, does a top job of depicting the crumbling of the fragile relationships between the various criminals that feature in the book. Her main characters, Lauren and Ella, are both shown to be fully rounded people with all the foibles and shades of grey that we humans have and seeing what made them tick and how they would handle the increasingly nasty stuff being thrown at them made me want to keep reading.

I did struggle with the plot a bit. Partly this is my fault as I read the book over a week or so rather than my usual couple of days. But even accounting for that I felt the need for a whiteboard and coloured markers so I could keep track of the various telephone calls that connected the many players together. The introduction of the daily investigating team meetings at which the day’s discoveries were summarised was, I suppose, an acknowledgement of the plot’s complexity and while it helped me a bit I think the whole thing could have been resovled more simply.  The beginning and the end were perfectly understandable but I lost my way a couple of times in the middle.

Ultimately though this is a good read, particularly if you like to read about how various types of people will react to life’s nastiness.

My rating 3.5/5

Other Stuff

Reviewed at Crime Down Under,  Aust Crime Fiction (Sally) and Aust Crime Fiction (Karen) , Mysteries in Paradise

Katherine Howell’s previous book, featuring a different paramedic but the same police detective, is Franticand I rated it a 4/5 (pre blog days)

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