When review copies of Emma Viskic’s third Caleb Zelic crime novel became available, you can bet I leapt right on that review train and shouted PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME.
Does Darkness for Light live up to the promise of the first two?
Reader, I compulsively live tweeted my (spoiler-free) feelz again. Spare a thought for Emma Viskic, who, when I wailed about Caleb’s terrible life choices, replied:
Darkness for Light is a fantastic crime thriller, drawing on thematic and plot threads from the first two. Caleb, the deaf security consultant protagonist, really is trying very, very hard to make good life decisions this time around, but with the detritus from previous the past clinging on, life is conspiring maliciously against him.
After a lifetime of bad decisions troubled PI Caleb Zelic is finally making good ones. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife.
But he can’t escape his past.
A violent confrontation forces Caleb back into contact with his double-crossing partner, Frankie. When her niece is kidnapped, Frankie and Caleb must work together to save the child’s life. But their efforts will risk everything, including their own lives.
The title comes from a bible quote: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for better.” ~ Isaiah 5:20
Without giving away any of the key twists, turns, back flips and I-never-saw-it-comings, Darkness for Light not only matches the crisp writing and superbly crafted professional and personal tensions of the first two books, it ramps up the stakes.
The possibility of a better life is haunting Caleb, with his estranged wife Kat in the early stages of a pregnancy which they hope she can carry to term, this time. When Frankie’s niece Tilda is kidnapped in relation to a case he’s been reluctantly dragged into, Caleb is desperate to save the girl. (Narratively, it feels like Caleb’s instinct is that the fates of Kat’s developing child and Tilda are linked.)
For all his faults, Caleb remains likeable and you really want him to sort out his life, deal with all his issues and live the life he longs for with the woman he loves. And, as Emma Viskic points out, he really is trying, but old enemies, old frenemies and even old and new friends present such a deep blend of motivations and agendas that he has little hope of sorting out what choices constitute ‘good’.
Viskic is immensely clever and satisfying in the ways she weaves together the strengths and vulnerabilities of Caleb’s deafness, the textures of his complex relationships, and the weight of his past against the pull of a future he longs for.
All of this growth and pain plays out as Caleb first of all stumbles onto a dead body where he expected a rendezvous, is blackmailed into helping a Federal Police Officer into a job he’d rather not do, and finally gets horribly tangled up with money laundering, corruption, assault, and murder.
Oh, and he’s also trying to assist a friend from his community unravel a case of vandalism.
The story is engrossing from start to end. The key characters are textured and often sympathetic even when you doubt their motives and decisions. The plotting is clever and all the pieces fit together without being predictable.
In short, Darkness for Light is a thoroughly satisfying read, which adds to the flow and depth of its thoroughly satisfying predecessors. All the stars for Emma Viskic!
Buy Darkness for Light