The Dark
Date Published26 May 2022
ISBN-13 978-1409198345
Price£ 14.99

The Dark

by Sharon Bolton

A terrorist group is targeting women and all that they hold dear. When former detective Lacey Flint is in the right place at the right time to save a baby, their attention turns to her …


Former Met detective Lacey Flint now works on the Thames as part of the Marine Unit. She spends her off-duty hours there too, living on a houseboat moored in Deptford Creek and kayaking on river in her spare time (swimming, too, although that’s a by-law offence and her long-suffering boss has threatened to bust her if he catches her at that again).

On her way by kayak to meet two of her friends, Dana Tulloch and her partner Helen for lunch, Lacey sees a man snatch a baby and set it adrift in the choppy, fast-flowing water in an inflatable unicorn pool ring. Lacey sets off in pursuit, leaving her friends to deal with another child in peril, this time thrown into the mud at the edge of the river still in its pushchair.

These horrific incidents are the start of a sustained campaign of terror directed at women by a group whose stated aim is to return women to a state of subjugation. The men, known as incels, from the term involuntary celibates, blame women for scorning them and choosing handsome, successful men with whom to bear children. As the incels’ demands escalate, so do the stakes. Women walk the streets in fear as the group advocate their rape and murder and use widespread intimidatory tactics.

Hunting the terrorists through their gathering places in the depths of the dark web are DCI Mark Joesbury and a small team of cyber specialists. Joesbury, often regarded as something of a loose cannon, isn’t taking well to being stuck behind a desk after spending so long doing high risk undercover jobs. He wants to get close to Lacey again, but she prefers to keep her distance, not wanting to put his job at risk by association with her. Lacey Flint has secrets of her own she’s determined to keep and letting Joesbury into her life again is too much of a risk.

Sharon Bolton expertly ramps up the tension throughout The Dark as the terrorist known only as AryanBoy whips his supporters into a frenzy, controlling and directing their actions in a way that is sadly horribly plausible. The threat felt incredibly real and as a woman in a world that still feels all too male dominated at times, it was terrifyingly easy to step into the pages of Bolton’s superbly depicted dystopian present, especially against the backdrop of the latest attacks on women’s freedoms in the US.

Lacey Flint is an excellent main character, reluctant to step into the limelight and determined to bury her own past as deeply as possibly until it becomes all too painfully clear that whatever is happening has just become very personal indeed. Although Lacey’s backstory has been hinted at in past books it’s never been fully revealed, but now the nature of her relationship with a notorious female serial killer finally looks like it will come out of the shadows. Lacey also has to confront her feelings for the equally complex Joesbury, one of my favourite bad boy coppers. Bolton’s characters are always deftly drawn and her skill with both plot and pace is immaculate. As events build inexorably towards an explosive climax, Joesbury and his team are very much on the back foot and that’s even before AryanBoy plays his master card to ensure they stay that way …

I was absolutely rivetted by The Dark, horrified by the plausibility of the scenario as I turned the pages faster and faster, wanting to find out what happened, but simultaneously not wanting the book to end. Sharon Bolton expertly delivers yet another superbly written high stakes police thriller.

Reviewed 22 July 2022 by Linda Wilson