What do you get when you throw a snowstorm, a family Christmas dinner, a big old manor house, a murder mystery, horror and Simon R. Green’ss writing in a blender and hit the start button?
This book: The Dark Side of the Road.
Introducing all-new characters in this stand-alone (hopefully it won’t remain a stand-alone), Simon R. Green returns with his own particular, or possibly better peculiar, take on traditional British murder mystery novels.
A lot of referencing has been done that this is Green doing an Agatha Christie. Let me assure you, other than the fact that they both did “who dunnit” stories, The Dark Side of the Road has nothing to do with the creator of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best books the author has penned down. It starts off with a simple request to our main character, Ishmael Jones, who, in long-standing Simon Green tradition, is more than he seems, from his employer: “Come join me for a good old-fashioned Christmas meal with my family, keep an eye on things.”
Things seem pretty normal at first, but you can sense the shit will hit the fan any minute.
The author does a great job creating both a feel of the surroundings as well as the all-new cast of characters, which builds up a suspense in such a masterful way that you know something is about to happen but you are still surprised when — and how — it does.
This is probably one of his most descriptive books to date when it comes to delving deeply into the perpetrator. Some things that have been described in Green’s previous books were never as scary as they are in this novel.
What I loved the most about The Dark Side of the Road isn’t the blending of genres, the atmosphere or the suspense, which are all masterfully done, but the lead character. Ishmael Jones isn’t, like most of the male Simon R. Green leads, practically invincible, relying on special powers or armor. Of course, he has traits that set him apart, but for all of them he is still vulnerable. With him I got far less of a “Oh, he’ll save the day at the end, because he’s all-powerful when push comes to shove” feeling than I do with other Green protagonists.
For everyone who loves murder mysteries, and can stomach some pretty scary scenes, this is a definite recommendation.
Avoid looking at descriptions in online stores, they may contain spoilers.