Doug Magee’s Darkness All Around focuses on Sean, an alcoholic whose life is unraveling, and his mysterious disappearance from the small town in which he’d grown up and married his childhood friend, Risa. After Sean is missing for several years, Risa finally has him declared dead and goes on with life to the best of her ability. She marries Sean’s best friend and her own high school sweetheart, Alan, and makes a family with him and Kevin- the son she had with Sean. On a day that has Risa oddly filled with foreboding, Sean reappears, grappling with disturbing visions that lead him to believe he is responsible for the death of Risa’s best friend Carol. Risa is as much convinced of Sean’s innocence as he is tormented by his guilt, and she takes it upon herself to do some investigating only to discover familiar faces are deeply involved.
Darkness All Around is a psychological suspense novel with lots of moving parts – all of which were well-integrated into a thoughtful plot. It is a fast-moving read and more complex than I would have imagined, but I never felt overwhelmed , or as if there were too much going on. Magee fleshed out what could have been a typical murder mystery with explorations into experimental treatments for alcoholism, links between suicidal parents and their children, the effect of violent sports on American teenagers and their families. While Risa’s reactions to Sean’s return were hardly surprising, the mystery of Carol’s death did have me juggling a few scenarios, with mixed results in my getting to the bottom of the crime. Recommended.