Book Review – THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds (2015)

THE DARK INSIDE by ROD REYNOLDS (2015, Faber & Faber, 394pp) ∗∗∗∗

Blurb: 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close. But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…

Apparently loosely based on actual events this is an assured debut from Reynolds, who creates a noir feel through his weaving mystery plot and use of the 1940s Texas setting. Charlie Yates is a haunted and flawed hero and Reynolds develops his character through his interactions as he looks to unravel the case surrounding three murdered couples. Reynolds relies to some extent on genre conventions – including the femme-fatale of Lizzie Anderson and the crooked cops. The tale also verges close to the melodramatic on a few occasions. Despite this there is a cinematic quality to the writing and dialogue that evokes movies of the period such as Out of the Past. Reynolds carefully introduces the main characters and plot elements through a slowish first-half, but as Yates closes in on the killer, the pace tightens significantly and the story hurtles to its inevitable showdown in page-turning fashion. Highly recommended.

Film Review – TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962; USA; B&W; 129m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Robert Mulligan; w. Horton Foote; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy, Ruth White, Brock Peters, Estelle Evans, Paul Fix, Collin Wilcox, James Anderson, Alice Ghostley, Robert Duvall, William Windom, Crahan Denton, Richard Hale, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford. A lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge and his kids against prejudice. Sensitively directed and truly memorable drama plays on themes of childhood fantasies and their idealistic view of the world. Peck is superb as the lawyer father his children worship and who stands against the prejudices of many of the citizens he is employed by. Great score by Bernstein and top performances all round. Duvall makes his debut as Boo Radley. Won three Oscars: Best Actor (Peck), Adapted Screenplay, Art Director. Based on the novel by Harper Lee. [PG]