Wednesday 24 February 2016

Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts by A K Benedict

Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight - only for her to find she doesn't want it.
Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker.
Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.
Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. To find the truth they'll have to listen to the whispers on the streets.
Shot through with love and loss, ghosts and grief, this compelling tale from the author of The Beauty of Murder will leave you looking over your shoulder and wondering what lurks in the dark. 

Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts by A K Benedict is published by Orion on 25 February 2016.

I haven't read A K Benedict's first novel, The Beauty of Murder, but was intrigued by both the cover and the blurb for this one, it sounds like a quirky, different, out of my comfort zone sort of read. I read the book whilst travelling to and from London on the train, and it certainly made the journey pass quickly. However, I have lots of questions about the story line, it left me feeling a little perplexed and not wholly satisfied if I'm honest.

The descriptions of the city of London are wonderfully done, I was totally hooked by the antics of the mudlarks on the shores of the Thames. The author paints a brilliantly realistic picture of those treasure hunters, scrabbling about in the mud and the tide, hoping to discover some treasure. The lead character of Maria is something of a enigma, and I have to admit that Maria, coupled with the mudlarkers give a feel of a historical novel. I really did feel at times that I was in Victorian London, there's something quite Gothic-like about the setting and the the people.

So, it often came as something as a shock when Maria said or did something that put her firmly in the modern day, I kept creeping back to murky, dark and olde-worlde London town.

The plot of Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts is complicated, with many characters and enough red herrings to feed a store full of hungry Ikea shoppers. Maria is multi-layered, quite odd and at times just downright annoying. Jonathan Dark, on the other hand is a dream of a character, I liked him and his humility and feelings of helplessness and despair, very much.

So, Maria is being stalked and Jonathan has seven days to catch the stalker. He's already failed to catch the guy once, and this troubles him very much. The race to stop another killing leads to the discovery of The Ring; an underworld criminal organisation, populated by celebrities and people of power. There are also encounters with undertakers who gossip freely with ghosts, and with the ghosts themselves.

There's a lot going on in this book. It's not the sort of novel that can be read in small chunks, you really need a good couple of hours to get your teeth into it and to keep ahead of the complicated plot line.

I admire AK Benedict for her imagination and her creativity. Her writing is atmospheric and creates a wonderfully realistic sense of place. However, there was just a little bit too much going on for me and I felt that the characters were jostling for space and time. Even so, this is an original and well written story that entertains and keeps the reader on their toes.

My thanks to the publisher Orion for sending my copy for review.

A K Benedict read English at Cambridge and Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. She lives in Hastings and writes in a room filled with teapots and the severed head of a ventriloquist's dummy. She did have a blow-up pirate but punctured it.

Alexandra was the front-person of an underground indie band, and has composed music for film and television. Her short stories and poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Best British Short Stories 2012.  Her first novel, The Beauty of Murder, was published in 2013.

Find out more about the author and her work at her website
Follow her on Twitter @ak_benedict


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