Readers of Resurrection Bay and And Fire Came Down will welcome Darkness for Light, Emma Viskic’s third thriller featuring private investigator Caleb Zelic. This complex character continues to mature. He tries harder than before to avoid getting into dangerous and compromising situations but fails, possibly because he is such a decent human being. His life is made difficult because he is almost totally deaf and so has to rely on a combination of Auslan, Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, and lip-reading, a skill that proves especially invaluable in his line of work.
As with Viskic’s two previous novels, Darkness for Light is written in the third person, but solely from Caleb’s point of view, making it easy for the reader to identify with him.
At the heart of this novel is a quandary – whom can Caleb trust? As Caleb seeks evidence of who is involved in a series of murders seemingly aimed at preventing the exposure of money laundering activities, can he trust a former colleague, or the police, or a former police officer? And always there are the challenges of his deafness, an issue skilfully portrayed by Viskic, from how to overcome listening problems while driving to how to use a mobile phone.
In the past, Caleb avoided the deaf community. That has changed and he now has a deaf friend who runs a cafe largely frequented by deaf people. When this friend gets into trouble, Caleb is called on to help. As if he did not have enough on his plate, Caleb also finds himself in charge of a precocious young girl, nicknamed Turnip, who may, without knowing it, be in possession of a vital piece of information. Turnip is keen to learn about sign language and some of its charms. When she is kidnapped, Caleb is fearful she may be seriously harmed and goes flat out to find her. Meanwhile, his private life is put on hold, although his relationship with his estranged wife is improving.
In my review of And Fire Came Down I mentioned that thrillers do not leave much room for humour, but it is welcome when it comes, as it did in the brief dialogue that I quoted from that book. It is a pity that this time around there are no such touches.
Writers who have conjured up a character who reappears in many novels include the great Agatha Christie (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Rankin (John Rebus), Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey) and Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) to name a few of the best loved. For the most part, these writers have conformed to the unwritten law, or call it convention, that each book featuring their hero can be read in its own right without the reader having read any of their earlier works. Viskic joins this illustrious group with her Caleb Zelic series, but Darkness for Light relies a little too much on its predecessors.
3.5 stars out of 5 ★★★☆
Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic
Publisher: Echo Publishing
Categories: Fiction, Australian, Crime & Mystery
Release Date: 2 December 2019