The Darkest Thread by Jen Blood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book starts out very strong. Jamie Flint, her dog Phantom, her son Bear, and his dog Casper, all come across as fully realized. The opening sequence of mother, son, and dogs doing a training tracking run in Maine was wonderfully written. The use of mother and son having varying degrees of the sight and the ability to see ghosts isn’t overdone. It’s just right.
But then once Jamie, Bear, dogs, and their employee/friend/Bear’s romantic interest Ren (accompanied by her dog) go to Vermont to help the FBI with a search for two missing girls, the book, slowly goes downhill.
At first, it isn’t quite that obvious. There are several positive aspects, even though despite being a first in a series, there is quite a bit of history that seems to have been dealt with another series. Unlike several other books with strong female leads, Darkest Thread has Jamie surrounded by strong women – an FBI agent as well as the head of the Vermont K-9 rescue both work with Jamie, and even the potential romantic rival, a news reporter who while pushy and antagonist comes across as strong willed.
It is promising enough for a reader to overlook the fact that it is the Maine team that just happens to make a major discovery, even after the Vermont team has been working. There is an attempt to explain this that a reader can somewhat buy – the father, Dean, of the missing girls has reason to distrust the FBI. Dean’s brother, an FBI agent, went to jail for killing two of the men’s sisters. The FBI agents working the missing girls’ case are all connected to this disgraced agent, who maybe innocent. Furthermore, Dean is a bit of a doomsday/off the gird guy who distrusts the FBI and blames the government for everything. Talking these plot points into an account, even with the unlikeness of the FBI team all having a connection with the murderer, a reader can allow herself to buy the no one checked the property because Dean wouldn’t let them attempt to justify why Jamie and crew find the body of one daughter and not the Vermont team.
But that’s when the book goes pear shaped.
In a slightly confusing sequence Dean goes bonkers, shoots Bear, takes him hostage to ensure that Jamie finds his other missing girl, Ren refuses to leave Bear, so Dean tells everyone that he will kill one teen in x number of hours.
The FBI lets this happen, pretty much.
And then the plot point that totally shatters any left-over suspension of disbelief. Jamie tells someone that she called Ren’s father to tell him about his daughter being taken and he’s upset but is going to stay back in Maine.
I’m sorry, but what the fucking hell.
Before Ren is taken hostage, Blood tells the reader at least three times that Ren’s mother and siblings were violently murdered in Nigeria, and Ren herself was separated from her father for over a year. It’s why Ren and her father went to the United States. So why is dad like, whatevers?
And even without that backstory, what parent would stay away?
And then Jamie finds some tunnels and gets caught in a cave in. All the dogs howl, but no one is smart enough to connect the howling with the earthquake that caused the cave in. Her knee gets hurt, but don’t worry despite it being two times its normal size, she is still able to keep up with everyone else.
What’s worse, the two of the other strong women become weak. It’s like the female FBI agent has a brain transplant or something (mostly because she is supposed to be a red herring), and the news reporter gets killed because she didn’t listen to the big strong man.
No men die though.
Blood also seems to be trying to use the ghosts to up the horror, and in some ways, they are the most interesting part of the story.
The downhill slide is a shame because if it had been workshopped or edited more, it would have been a far better book. There are plausible reasons why Ren’s father might not show up – he’s in the field, he’s on a plane, he’s out of country – instead of the half ass on that we are given. The ending could have been smoothed out and tightened. The ghosts could have been allowed more room, the mood could have been better. As it is now, it goes from a book that had promise at the beginning to a book that kills any desire to read anything else by the author. Two stars because of the strong beginning.
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