Ruth Rendell

The Dark Inside

"Reynolds is a huge talent in the making."


The year is 1946, the place is an outback town called Texarkana. Folks lead a simple life but this small community has been rocked by a number of brutal murders that has shattered the tranquillity of this quiet town. New York reporter, Charlie Yates has been dispatched to the back of beyond by his disgruntled boss as punishment for his erratic behaviour. Charlie is incensed he has been exiled to such a dead water place to report some crimes the nationals have no interest in.

As Charlie’s personal life continues to unravel, he digs deeper and deeper and begins to peel back conspiracies within this charming community. A sign on entering the town states: ‘Texarkana, USA is twice as nice’. Charlie is beginning to feel that sign is mighty misleading as he faces aggression from the offset, ultimately leading to violence and threats to his life. Any man with sense would have jumped back in his car and headed out of town, but Charlie meets the fiery Lizzie, sister to Alice who is the only one to have survived and seen her killer up close. Soon Charlie is finding that the roots of deception and decay run deep in to the past and that corruption is rife. Many people have their lives and reputation at stake – and will kill a lowlife reporter if it means the truth is left underground.

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I have read my fair share of Chandler, Goodis et al. but also dipped in to the plethora of ‘wannabe’ Noir books written since. Some become a mere pastiche and some feel as though the writer has swallowed a Chandler book and regurgitated it word for word. Thankfully, this cannot be said for Rod Reynold’s debut, ‘The Dark Inside’. As I read the first page, I did worry slightly if we were heading off in the same direction as mentioned above, but my worries were short-lived as Reynolds rapidly found his own voice – or more to the point Yates’ - and his story was galloping away smoothly and at a pace. Charlie Yates isn’t the warmest of characters, but Reynolds did an admirable job of making me rout for him when the odds were against him. Nobody in Texarkana is particularly friendly, but Reynolds manages to give each an individual voice which pushed me to want to know more as the drama unfolded. Reynolds is very good at characterisation and I really loved Charlie’s back story which gave him a depth that made him even more tangible. Reynolds litters his plot with plenty of red herrings and even Yates is surprised at the end when things take a twist that even he couldn’t foresee. There is a happy ending for Yates, but Reynolds leaves that flavour in the air that Yates is one of those people who have it good and then ends up throwing it all away. We shall see if I am right or wrong on that point. ‘The Dark Inside’ is an extremely powerful novel. Reynolds’ writing is sublime and assured making the book feel as though written by someone with years of experience, rather than a debut author. I will continue to watch this author with interest. Reynolds is a huge talent in the making.

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