The Past Will Repeat Itself

Author: Stacy Willingham

Chloe Davis is still self-medicating to forget the past. But the past isn’t dead, and it’s coming for her and everyone she loves.

When she was twelve, she discovered a devastating secret in her father’s closet. One that lead to his conviction as the heartless killer of six teenage girls from their town, including one of Chloe’s friends.

Now, as an adult, Chloe continues to hide from the past. As a psychologist, she should know better. But she keeps taking her illegal Xanax, drinking her wine, and pretending that her life – and her weird fiancé – are normal. But when the bodies start piling up again, all with ties to Chloe, she is forced to search deep into the past with the help of a journalist on a mission.

A Flicker in the Dark is your traditional thriller fare – an unreliable female narrator who cannot face facts, a group of suspicious male family and friends, maudlin flashbacks layered with meaning, and a lot of unlikely saves and obvious revelations. That’s not to say that it was bad; actually, A Flicker in the Dark is one of the better thrillers I’ve read lately. But it’s certainly not exceptional, especially for those of us who’ve been on the thriller train for a while and know all the tricks behind the glamour.

This isn’t a book to tug at the heartstrings. It’s one to evoke paranoia and make us want to solve a dark puzzle. I, surprisingly, did not manage to figure it all out, especially relating to the journalist and the fiancé, which is why I am labeling this as one of the better thrillers, but some aspects were fairly obvious. Let’s be honest here, it’s no spoiler that the wrong man is in prison and that Chloe, with all her denial, is living right next to the grisly truth. It’s still fun to follow her devolution, to watch the accusations and false assumptions fly, to wait for our out-of-it heroine to make the critical mistakes that will set the clock ticking and up the ante.

Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay

And Chloe does make some genuinely dumb mistakes. I saw one reviewer describe her as someone with all the personality of hold music, and I laughed at the same time as I acknowledged the complete accuracy of the statement. Chloe is there to be bamboozled, to be all fragile and easy to mess with, yet she has no true pull on us as a character. It’s hard to empathize with her. Her decisions are dumb. She is the exact kind of person who’d follow the creepy noises in the basement during a dark and stormy night. For instance, she only lives an hour away from her old hometown yet thinks this miraculously shifts her away from her famous serial killer father. Oh, and she keeps his same last name. Somehow, the cops don’t figure this out, so hey, maybe in this world her barely attempted cover-up is a plan worthy of a mastermind?

What I did like, beyond the idea and the atmosphere, was the deception. There were four people who could indeed be the real killer, including Chloe herself (in my way of thinking). And yes, one of these people ends up being the killer, which was a nice, foreseeable twist. But still. It worked, and I liked it.

I was intrigued by the story enough to continue, to follow the clues and overlook the blatant disregard for sanity sometimes (one single Xanax and a glass of wine does not knock you completely insensible, psychologists cannot prescribe pills to family {and steal said pills}, and if she has really been popping said pills for a decade, she would defiantly have a higher resistance to their effects, a first time gun user cannot do a perfect headshot with zero effort, etc.…) This was a fun, albeit forgettable offering from the thriller genre, and I got what I came for: some dark thrills and chills, some kooky ideas and near misses, and some twists. Good, not great, but A Flicker in the Dark makes a thoroughly enjoyable beach read or something for a rainy day at home.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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