The Dark (Lacey Flint 5) by Sharon Bolton

Lacey’s back!

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When a baby is snatched from its mother and thrown into the Thames aboard an inflatable unicorn, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint gives chase in her kayak. It soon becomes clear this terrifying incident is to be the first of many. DCI Mark Joesbury has been following the trail of a group of women-haters who have been communicating through the dark web, and had known that something was about to happen. Now he and his team know that the men involved are planning a campaign of terror, directed at women. And by getting involved in this first incident, Lacey has made herself a target…

Wow! When Sharon Bolton is on top form, there is no one to beat her. And she is most certainly on her top form in this one! Of course it’s a pleasure to meet up with Lacey and Mark and the rest of the regulars again, and to see how their lives have developed since we last saw them, which seems like a very long time ago. Dana and Helen are now the proud parents of a son, and this makes the whole terror campaign even more frightening for Dana since these men realise that one of the best ways to frighten women is to go after their children. I don’t want to reveal much about Lacey and Mark, since there may be people reading this who haven’t read the rest of the series, so I’ll just say that their running on/off relationship continues to move forward in this instalment. And Bolton continues to use her chosen setting of the Thames to brilliant effect, with Lacey still working in the Metropolitan Police’s marine unit.

The storyline is both fantastic and terrifyingly possible. It’s based on the idea of incels, which has become one of those words that gets bandied around these days, usually as an insult. However Bolton shows them not as a trivial group of disgruntled men who can’t get girlfriends, but as the basis of a seriously misogynistic movement with the aim of removing the hard won rights of women and returning them to a position of subservience within a new patriarchy. She does an amazing job of showing how feasible such an organisation would be, and compares their aims to the kinds of strict patriarchal regimes that already exist in other parts of the world, which makes the whole idea seem considerably less unlikely than it might do on face value in our (supposedly) liberal world. (As I was reading it, The US Supreme Court was in the process of removing the right to abortion, while in most of the West a heated debate is underway on all aspects of women’s rights, with many things that we have fought long and hard for suddenly seeming to be under threat amid attempts by extremist activists to silence women’s voices. Johnny Depp was suing Amber Heard, and whichever side you’re on in that one I suspect we would all agree that the sexualised abuse and death threats directed at Heard daily on social media have been a real sign that misogyny is alive and well, and very often propped up by women.)

Bolton also uses the idea of the dark web to great effect, showing it as a place where all kinds of organisations can group and recruit members, spread information and disinformation, and conspire to commit all kinds of criminal acts under the noses of the authorities but with them unable to identify the names or locations of the people involved. I don’t know whether this is true or not, having no experience whatsoever of the dark web, but I found it scarily believable.

However, Bolton knows how to get the balance right between this all too believable background and the main thriller elements that keep the pace hurtling along. There are aspects that aren’t wholly credible, but I didn’t have time to stop and think about them as my need to keep turning those pages was too strong. I did guess who the baddie was quite early on, but because this is more of a thriller than a straight mystery that didn’t matter – the tension comes from fear of what will happen in the future rather than from discovering the culprit.

Sharon Bolton

I do like the way Lacey has evolved over the series. Bolton has done it slowly and naturally, so that it feels realistic. She’s now less of a loner, beginning to let her guard down a bit with the people she has come to think of as friends. This makes her more likeable than she was in the beginning, and from my perspective that’s a good thing – I always prefer a likeable central character. And no spoilers, but the very last line left me gobsmacked – I did not see that coming! Unfortunately, or that should really be fortunately, you’ll have to read the entire series in order to find out what I’m talking about – my advice would be to start now… 😉 Great book, great series! Keep ‘em coming, Ms Bolton!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion via NetGalley.

Amazon UK Link

38 thoughts on “The Dark (Lacey Flint 5) by Sharon Bolton

  1. Oh, this does sound intriguing, FictionFan! The theme is, as you say, both dark and very, very possible, and that sounds like Bolton in top form. And Lacey is such a good character, isn’t she? I think I’d have to be ready before I read this one, because of its theme of misogyny. But when I am, this sounds like a good ‘un!

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    • Yes, the theme was frighteningly relevant to what was happening in the news and that made it all even scarier! Although she picks these really dark themes, what I like about her is she never really gets too grim and gruesome – she understands how to scare rather than horrify, if that makes sense. I think you’ll enjoy this one despite the themes when you’re in the mood for it!

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  2. I loved this too – it was so good to see Lacey back after such a long absence and I thought this was one of the best books in the series. I found the scenario Bolton describes both difficult to believe and frighteningly plausible at the same time! And yes, the ending was a surprise!

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    • Yes, I think it’s one of the best too – Dead Scared is the only one that equals it, I think. I remember that one terrifying me, but in a good way! 😉 I might have struggled with accepting the theme if the news hadn’t been full of stories that seemed to be so relevant to what she was portraying – they made it seem all too possible. And that last line left me with my jaw dropped to the floor – not what I was expecting at all! I do hope she doesn’t make us wait for years for the next one!

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  3. I am so delighted to hear that there is a new Lacey book! How long has it been? Years and years. I’ve read all the previous books, but I almost feel like I ought to reread them to remind myself of all the things. Sigh. Thank you, thank you for writing about this one and I’ll look to see when I might be able to get this one. It’s interesting to me when authors come back to series and characters that they have not visited for a long time. Tess Gerritsen’s new Rizzoli and Isles book, for example. It’s been 5 years or so the author says.

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    • Hallo, Kay, nice to hear from you! Yes, it’s been ages since the last Lacey Flint – I thought she’d finished with the series. This is one of the best of them too, I think – a real thrill ride, and too scarily possible! I do hope you can get hold of a copy soon. I haven’t read the Rizzoli and Isles books, but they’ve been on my radar for ages. I really must make space…

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    • Yes! I do think you’d enjoy these – she’s brilliant at building up tension. They do stand alone, but the first one kinda tells you why Lacey is who she is and that gets referred to in the later books. That’s a bit vague to avoid spoilers – sorry! 😀

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  4. I’ve only read The Pact, but really enjoyed it. So….. I guess I’d better go put the first in this series on my wishlist. (curse you!!) Sadly they’re not at my library and the Kindle versions are fairly pricy.

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    • Oh, if you enjoyed The Pact then you’ll definitely love this series! When she’s on form, she’s the best, and for me the Lacey books are the best she’s done. Hmm, might be worth watching the Kindle Daily Deals – I’ve noticed the older books sometimes show up there whenever she brings out a new one, though that may just be in the UK where she’s pretty huge. Hope you manage to get hold of them!

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    • This is one of the best – you’re in for a real treat! The only other one I think is as good is Dead Scared, which I remember terrifying me – but in a good way! 😂 Hope it’s available soon over there!

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    • She really is brilliant – she creates real tension and scariness without resorting to the gruesomeness of so much modern crime! Hmm, you could read any of them as a standalone, but in this series you actually learn a lot about Lacey and why she is who she is in book 1 – vague to avoid spoilers, sorry! – and that tends to get referred to in the later books. However, although I enjoyed the first book enough to want to read more, I thought it was a good deal weaker than the rest of the series and Lacey was pretty unlikeable – she improved dramatically in Book 2! If you don’t mind possible spoilers for the first book, then book 2, Dead Scared, would be a good place to start – I thought it was fantastic!

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    • She’s probably my favourite contemporary crime/thriller writer. She has the occasional one that doesn’t work for me, but the vast majority of her books are brilliant! I think she’s appeared in my yearly Best Of lists almost every year I’ve been blogging… 😀

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