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The Darkest Hour by Katherine Howell

The Darkest Hour

by Katherine Howell

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Lauren is a paramedic who one dark night out working on her own came across a murder victim in a back alley. Hiding in the shadows she sees a man she recognises as her sister's ex-husband, Thomas Werner, who they believed had returned to his home in Austria. He threatens Lauren that if she says he a word about him to police, he will harm her sister and her little girl. Some months later when she is transporting a fatally stabbed victim to hospital, she and her colleague Joe hear him clearly say that he was stabbed by Thomas Werner. Thomas is heavily embroiled in crime and tries to silence Lauren however detective Ella Marconi is on the case and there is no way Lauren can suppress Thomas' involvement this time.

A story with several different threads that all come together in a thrilling ending. ( )
  cscott | Feb 23, 2014 |
Paramedic Lauren Yates is working alone one night when a man bolts from an alley in the heart of Sydney and she stops to see what’s going on. She stumbles upon the body of a convicted paedophile then the man’s killer, Thomas Werner, who is Lauren’s sister’s ex boyfriend and the father of her niece. He warns her to say nothing if she wants her family to be OK. Some months later, after Lauren has lied about the events she say in the alley that night, Lauren and her partner Joe are transporting a stabbed man to the hospital in their ambulance and he makes a dying declaration that the man who killed him was Thomas Werner. Detective Ella Marconi is assigned to the investigative team and realises that Lauren has something to hide when she tries to change her statement about the patient’s dying declaration.

This is the second of Howell’s books to be published and, like the first book Frantic, for me it was more about the psychology of the situations people find themselves in than a standard police procedural. Howell is a former paramedic she really captures the tension and emotion that must be a constant for people in that line of work. Some of the most compelling reading in the book is when the paramedics respond to callouts where they have little knowledge of what they’ll find. But she also, hopefully without the same first-hand knowledge, does a top job of depicting the crumbling of the fragile relationships between the various criminals that feature in the book. Her main characters, Lauren and Ella, are both shown to be fully rounded people with all the foibles and shades of grey that we humans have and seeing what made them tick and how they would handle the increasingly nasty stuff being thrown at them made me want to keep reading.

I did struggle with the plot a bit. Partly this is my fault as I read the book over a week or so rather than my usual couple of days. But even accounting for that I felt the need for a whiteboard and coloured markers so I could keep track of the various telephone calls that connected the many players together. The introduction of the daily investigating team meetings at which the day’s discoveries were summarised was, I suppose, an acknowledgement of the plot’s complexity and while it helped me a bit I think the whole thing could have been resovled more simply. The beginning and the end were perfectly understandable but I lost my way a couple of times in the middle.

Ultimately though this is a good read, particularly if you like to read about how various types of people will react to life’s nastiness
( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Lauren Yates and Joe Vandermeer are paramedics, a team working in Sydney’s ambulance service. They are generally, but not always, on night duty. Joe has called in sick and so Lauren is on her own. An ambulance officer is always vulnerable in these circumstances. It’s a winter’s night and Lauren has just attended a horrific car crash where the driver died, and is now on her way back to the station. Two men rush out of an alleyway and one collapses into the gutter just in front of her car. When Lauren investigates the alleyway she sees a body. She locates another person in the alleyway, this time very much alive. To her horror it is someone she knows, someone she had hoped she would never see again. Thomas Werner is her niece’s father, and when he sees that Lauren recognises him, Thomas threatens to harm Lauren’s family if she reveals she has seen him. Lauren’s decision not to reveal this information when she later makes her statement to the police about the body in the alleyway has far-reaching repercussions.

In a sense THE DARKEST HOUR is a sequel to Howell’s debut novel FRANTIC because, although the central paramedic character is different, the investigating police officer is again Detective Ella Marconi. Ella realises that Lauren has not revealed all. THE DARKEST HOUR uses a structure of two parallel plots, rather like the structure of FRANTIC. Ella’s determination to succeed in her investigation and to cement her position in the homicide squad at times makes her obsessive and seemingly hard-bitten. The investigation brings very real danger for her as it is realised there is a “mole” in the homicide squad.

The personalised stories of the main characters breathe life into THE DARKEST HOUR. Lauren Yates at times makes some pretty poor decisions. Her partner Joe’s fiancé is venomous in her hatred for her, ready to bring her into disrepute at every turn. Ella Marconi is struggling to maintain a life independent of her doting Italian mother and extended family. The result is well-fleshed characters that seem real.

THE DARKEST HOUR is not so much a mystery as a thriller. The reader always knows who the quarry is. The book gets its pace from the net closing around him. This book confirms that Katherine Howell is an Australian author to watch. In an Author’s Note Howell is candid in her explanation of how she came to be a writer, how she has used her previous job as a paramedic as background for her novels, but also how she had to distance herself from that life in order to write. There’s more on her website at http://www.katherinehowell.com. Katherine Howell lives on the New South Wales north coast and is currently working on her third novel. Her debut novel FRANTIC has been longlisted for the 2008 Ned Kelly Best First Novel awards. ( )
  smik | Jul 9, 2008 |
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Paramedic Lauren Yates stumbles into a world of trouble the night she discovers a dead man in an inner city alley, for the killer lurks nearby.

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