Orion, out now
A murder mystery with more than a hint of the supernatural.
Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts is the second novel from A.K. Benedict. Her first, The Beauty of Murder, was a wonderfully realised crime novel that blended time travel seamlessly into the narrative. Her second book is no less beautifully written.
The eponymous Jonathan Dark is a detective with the Metropolitan Police, driven by his failure to save a woman from her stalker. When formerly blind mudlarker Maria King finds herself the prey of another stalker, Dark is determined not to fail again.
Maria can now see, following surgery, but cannot get used to the sighted world, preferring to rely on the senses she’s developed so assiduously while blind, and thus she goes blindfolded through her days. When she receives a ghoulish proposal from her stalker, her world is thrown into disarray.
Gradually, Dark realises that the predator stalking Maria is linked in some way to a series of crimes he’s been investigating – a shadowy criminal society that leaves precious few clues. Each finds themselves thrown into the other’s world: Maria discovers her blindness leaves her more vulnerable than she has ever been before, while Dark is shown a side of London he never knew existed.
As Dark tries to unravel the clues and find his prey, Maria struggles to hold on to what is left of her life while the stalker attempts to prove his love and control his prey. Dark finally sees that there is far more to this mystery than he originally thought; and it’s entirely possible that what he uncovers will kill them all.
The characters in this novel leap off the page, vividly drawn – and the themes of loneliness and loss are deftly woven into the mystery as the story draws you in, bringing you inexorably closer to a devastating conclusion. The author shows London and the Thames as characters in their own right, making for a grimly atmospheric, beautifully written novel.
Verdict: A story of love and loss, of grief and desire – guaranteed to hold you in its grip. 9/10