Short Take: This one works great as the middle of a trilogy, not as well as a standalone.
If you read my previous review, you already know a bit about Brenna Spector. She has the gift/curse of perfect recall (hyperthymestic syndrome), a 13-year-old daughter, and her own private investigation business, where she’s assisted by Trent, a goofy Jersey Shore stereotype/computer genius. Brenna specializes in missing persons cases, but has never been able to find her own sister Clea, who disappeared when she was 17 and Brenna was 11.
Into the Dark picks up a few weeks after the ending of And She Was. Brenna has appeared on a morning talk show to discuss the resolution of the Neff case, and as a result, has gained much more business than she can handle. But when Errol Ludlow, her sleazy ex-boss, contacts her with a new case, it sounds just interesting enough to stand out.
She calls herself Lula Belle, and her online videos have gained a massive following. She is filmed behind a screen, in silhouette only, as she performs semi-pornographic acts while telling long stories about her childhood in a southern drawl. Nobody knows who she really is, or what she really looks like. When her agent, Gary Freeman, has not heard from her in over two months, he hires Brenna to find Lula Belle.
Gary has problems of his own – he’s obsessed with the cipher that is Lula Belle, and without new videos from her, he is facing a financial crisis. He’s also going to have plenty of marital problems if his wife ever discovers his true feelings for Lula Belle.
But Gary Freeman isn’t the only one who will become consumed by Lula Belle’s tales. When watching the videos, Brenna realizes that Lula Belle’s stories are from her own childhood – things that only her sister Clea would know.
There’s a lot to like about this book. An amusing subplot of Trent trying to find a cat for a wealthy, lonely, older former client leads to some really heartfelt moments with him, giving a glimpse behind the pecs and hair gel. We also get to see more of Brenna’s interactions with her daughter Maya, who was offscreen for much of the first book.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, some areas are lacking. We learn a little more about Clea, and get a few clues to her ultimate fate, but we don’t get any real answers. And we see Brenna seemingly getting closer to Nick Morasco, her detective boyfriend from Into the Dark, but there are also a lot of hints that Nick is keeping something important from her.
Into the Dark is good, if you are reading the entire trilogy start to finish. It’s a nice bridge between the first and final books. Lula Belle’s story is resolved, and we are given more of Brenna and Clea’s story, but the loose ends leave the whole thing feeling unfinished. I’m on the fence as to whether this is a decent-enough book on its own, or just marketing material for the final book in the series. It’s compelling enough that I’m going to go on to read the final book, but I don’t know that I would recommend Into the Dark on its own merits.
The Nerd’s Rating: THREE HAPPY NEURONS
Currently Reading/Next Review: Stay With Me, by Alison Gaylin