Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day: Reading Room Review

The phrase “off the chain” is a term often used to describe something fantastically good, and so it is in that sense that I say Under a Dark Sky is off the chain. However, the chain runs smooth with the structure and flow of Lori Rader-Day’s brilliant writing. She has everything under control, even the missteps the readers make in assigning guilt to the wrong characters. It’s a dark tale played out in a dark park, a locked room environment with a guest house full of troubled lives.  Oh, and the main character has a phobia about the dark. 

Life for thirty-something Eden Wallace has been a nightmare since the recent death of her husband, or it would be a nightmare if she could sleep and she didn’t spend the night with lights blazing all over her house. Afraid of the dark doesn’t quite cover the paralyzing phobia that Eden has, unable to step foot outdoors from nightfall until daybreak. Realizing that she is far too young to become a recluse, Eden makes a decision contradictory to her phobia. Upon finding paperwork in her husband’s desk where he had reserved a vacation at Straits Point International Dark Sky Park in Michigan, Eden steels herself to go to this place where lights are kept to a bare minimum and stars are the only lights of attraction. She feels she might actually find some solace and strength from a change of scenery in a retreat by herself, and her husband, Bix, did plan it to coincide with their 10th wedding anniversary. But, just about everything she thinks this trip will be is turned on its head from the moment she arrives at the reserved guest house. She has only a suite in the house and must share the rest of the house with a group of twenty-something strangers who are coming together for a college reunion of sorts. Not wanting to stay with arrangements as they are, but with night getting close to falling, Eden knows she is stuck for one night where she is. One night with all the lights in her room on and leaving the next day seems an option she will have to live with. 

And then there is someone dead on the kitchen floor with a screwdriver stuck in the throat. No one is going anywhere right away. Everyone is a suspect, including Eden, and the secret of her phobia and her marriage and her husband’s death make their way to the surface. But, she isn’t the only one with secrets. The six friends all seem to have different agendas for the reunion and different issues from the past to resolve. And, there is the ghost of a past friend the six share. This locked room is a Pandora’s box of ills, including jealousy, greed, lying, and revenge. No one is innocent and, thus, everyone is guilty, at least of some regrettable sin.  Who is the killer, what is her/his motive, and are the ensuing accidents that follow the murder really accidents?  The local law enforcement is ill equipped to solve a murder, and Eden feels compelled to do some investigating on her own, as the answers mean clearing her name and possibly saving lives, including her own.  It’s clear that the retreat Eden had hoped would revive her life will change it in ways she never saw coming.

Lori Rader-Day hit the ground running with her first book, the Anthony Award winning The Black Hour, and her next two books, Little Pretty Things and The Day I Died won awards and nominations and placement on “best” lists, too. Her storytelling and writing talents won me over at the beginning. Her stories are always uniquely interesting, no trace of having read this set-up before. But, I think that with Under a Dark Sky, she has achieved a stellar status that will catapult her into the highest stratosphere of fame. The 

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