Review: This Thing of Darkness by Barbara Fradkin

Retired psychiatrist Samuel Rosenthal is beaten to death late one Saturday night in an Ottawa alleyway. Officially the case is being investigated by Sergeant Marie Claire Levesque, new to the Ottawa Police, and she becomes convinced the doctor was killed as part of a mugging gone wrong. A group of black youths was spotted on a surveillance camera and Levesque spends her energies on tracking them down. Her boss, Inspector Michael Green, is not sure the case is as clear cut and he also starts to investigate the case, enjoying the feel of being back out in the field. He tackles several lines of enquiry including the notion that Rosenthal was killed by one of his former patients or possibly even his own estranged son. Green and Levesque disagree on process and priorities for most of the novel which impacts the investigative process at several points in the story.

I found this a fairly confusing book to read, with an over-abundance of plot lines that all received fairly cursory attention. For my enjoyment the book would have been better served by focusing more in-depth on a couple of these only, though I’m sure this is a matter of personal preference. An aspect that really grated on my nerves was the inclusion of the possibility that the motivation for the crime was one young Muslim man’s extreme fundamentalism. There is absolutely no evidence of any such thing and the thread peters out into nothing at all, but that didn’t stop Inspector Green throwing out a few random “facts” about Muslim extremism.  The young man in question was born in Somalia and had experienced sustained violent abuse at the hands of a parent and the case does touch on the possibility that this upbringing had an unexpected impact on the boy but there was plenty of scope for this to be explored in more depth rather than yet another go-round of the ‘Muslim = terrorirst’ theme. I can’t even begin to imagine how truly awful it must be for the vast majority of Muslims who are perfectly normal, well-adjusted people to have their religion automatically linked with the notion of terrorism whenever it is mentioned.

This is the seventh book of the Inspector Green series and I did feel a bit like I was attending a party uninvited as there were a fair few oblique references to past events. That aside though the focus on the personal lives of the various members of the team was a stronger element of the novel, though I must admit to finding Green both unlikeable and not entirely convincing. At one point for example he his indirectly responsible for the death of an innocent young girl and is at least partially to blame for the heart attack of a colleague. He seems to shrug off both of these events with only the most cursory of nods to any emotional impact on himself and neither incident changes the man’s behaviour at all. I found this a little hard to swallow.

In the end I suppose this was a perfectly serviceable police procedural but I didn’t find anything in it that stood out our would make me want to read more of the series. I do appreciate this is probably at least partly a result of coming to the series so late but I do think a series should be able to be joined at any point in its progress.

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This Thing of Darkness has been reviewed at Reviewing the Evidence

Apart from a liberal use of the words loonie and toonie I didn’t notice anything particularly Canadian about the novel, but I’m counting this as book 2 of the North American leg of my Global Reading Challenge for the year

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My rating 2.5/5
Publisher Napoleon and Co (this digital edition 2009)
ISBN  9781926607146
Length 344 pages
Format eBook (ePub)
Book Series #7 in the Inspector Green series
Source I bought it

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12 Responses to Review: This Thing of Darkness by Barbara Fradkin

  1. Kathy D. says:

    Thanks for your honest review. It is so refreshing to read an objective, realistic take on a book.
    I’ll be skipping it. I have very little patience on the “Muslims are terrorists” theme. It is not very enlightened nor helpful. It just contributes to reinforcing that attitude. Turns me off whether it’s about Muslims or other peoples.
    I’m glad I knew this before I subjected myself to new aggravating reading.
    Appreciate your review.


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – Thanks as ever for a thoughtful and very well-written review – a terrific review, actually. I agree with you 100% that too many plot threads can make a book confusing. And don’t get me started about the issue of “statements” about groups that serve no purpose. Or about a series that doesn’t welcome readers who don’t necessarily begin at the beginning of the series…. All in all, this got my interest a bit, but I won’t be in a huge hurry to read it.


  3. Barbara says:

    Unfortunately that kind of kneejerk reaction to Muslim people is abundant in the U.S. and Canada alike. I know of a Muslim doctor originally from Pakistan who has been in the U.S. for many, many years. He’s highly respected in the medical community but still his family suffers their share of prejudice. I guess prejudice will always be with us and I hate it.


  4. Kathy D. says:

    The only thing that gives me solace on this is that there are many individuals and organizations that work to end discrimination and bigotry towards Muslim and Arab peoples. I see them in my city, and know that this takes place in many cities.


  5. sue says:

    I enjoyed this no-nonsense review and especially the bit about the lack of moral reflection/responsibility of the hero. I really don’t enjoy books where the events have no impact on the protagonist.

    In fact I’ve just tracked down a quote from Michael Connelly:

    “I was once told that the best crime novels are not about how a detective works on a case; they are about how a case works on a detective.”

    (I think Margot Kinberg could do a terrific post on this!)


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