Rating: 3.75/5 stars
When Darla and her feckless dad, Hopper, move to Saffron Hills, Darla hopes it’ll be a new start for the both of them. But she stands no chance of fitting in with the image-obsessed in-crowd at her new school. Then one of her classmates is brutally killed when taking a photo of herself. A murder Darla herself predicted in a bloody vision. When more teens die in a similar fashion it appears that a serial killer is on the loose – the ‘Selfie Slayer’. Darla alone is convinced that the murderer might not be flesh and blood…
Release Date: 10th September 2015 – pre-order from Amazon here.
I clean up the bloody corpses before the guests come round,” Walter replied, deadpan. “Mom insists.”
A spine-chilling horror story with a modern twist, Tom Becker’s Dark Room is written mostly from Darla’s point of view, only ever switching to another character moments before their death. In my opinion, this method is very effective, for it gives you an insight into other people’s minds, before swiftly cutting it off with a bloody murder. There’s also the aspect that once you’ve figured out who’s speaking, you’ve also figured out that they’re next to be slaughtered.
Personally, I very much enjoyed this book – much more than I was expecting. I have never been the biggest fan of horror, testing the waters every now and again by watching American Horror Story, for example. But this book took me by surprise, and – whilst thoroughly creeped out – I was still able to appreciate the story and the plot line Becker had crafted without feeling sick to my stomach.
This is something you do not always come across in the horror genre.
Plenty of books, films, and TV shows within this genre incorporate gory scenes with no real purpose other than the scare the audience. Becker does not do this. Instead, he has created a detailed story line, in which many people could be the murderer. There are times when we’re certain of who it is, times when we think things are a little strange, and this is all pieced together for a great ending to a great book. If you read carefully, you’ll spot a few aspects of foreshadowing from Becker’s hand, which really helped me understand the novel and the murderer’s motives a lot more. It’s also really great to read a scene, and pick up on the backlash of previous moments of foreshadowing.
However, of course, there were a few little things I didn’t like about the book.
Firstly – whilst, granted, not a part of the book – the synopsis for this novel is terrible; it doesn’t do the book justice, and it places more emphasis on Darla trying to fit in to this ‘in-crowd’, which this book is not about, and nor is Darla. Furthermore, not once is the murderer called the ‘selfie-slayer’ in the book – the synopsis, and the cover, give the impression that the victims are murdered through a camera, which (despite cameras being a big part of the story) is not the case.
Secondly, I didn’t like the inclusion of Darla’s visions. They weren’t particularly well written, they didn’t appear realistic, and, unfortunately, I think they were only in the book so as to ensure Darla was the one who found the bodies. As I see it, it would’ve been interesting to not have the visions, and just have the point of view switch. I don’t think it should have been Darla finding the body every time, either. On the first occasion, yes, very effective. On the second occasion it wasn’t her, anyway. But on the third, and progressing from there, Darla seemed less and less haunted by seeing a dead body, mangled and mocked into different positions. There wasn’t enough emphasis on Darla’s reactions to these findings, rendering her either empathetic, or simply not developed enough.
Moreover, and truly unfortunately, the end felt a little rushed. The penultimate chapter was the general conclusion to the book, and it was written speedily, as if Becker was in a hurry to end the book. At some points, I had to go back and reread a few lines because it went by so quickly. Becker did manage to pull it back towards the end of the scene, though, which I am very pleased about.
My final issue with this novel is a common dislike of mine, and includes when authors do things like this!!! Or this??? And this time, Becker did this: “Okayyyy.” Bleugh. I hate it when people write like this! I don’t know if anyone else feels the same, but to me it just appears childish and sloppy.
Nevertheless, there were plenty of positives with this book. For example, the character development of Darla was astounding. As readers, we witness her in Chapter 1 as a mousy little girl who’s afraid of what her daddy might do next, but in the final few chapters she is badass! I really like Darla as a protagonist, and her developing a ballsy attitude really shone through in an enjoyable light.
Next, the plot twists. God, I love a good plot twist, and this book contains plenty of them. Becker writes in a way that implies things. He gives you the information to work out who the murderer is on your own, before snatching it away and telling you you’re wrong. And I love that! My favourite plot twist occasion was during Frank’s point of view. At that moment, my mouth literally dropped, and for a brief moment, I thought it was he who was the murderer! (Spoiler,it wasn’t.) And the plot twist at the end with Walter! I won’t ruin it for you, but let me tell you this: wow.
Finally, big round of applause to Becker, because Walter is an amazing villain! The prologue started the book with a bang, and Walter Walter Walter was all I was thinking for the rest of it. The complexities with Walter’s story, along with how it linked to other people was really well executed. And the originality of the murderer’s methods was really fresh and unique to read.
Overall, I awarded this book 3.75/5 stars, because of everything I’ve mentioned taken into consideration.
(Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to send a big thank you to NetGalley for this book, and also to everyone at Little Tiger/Stripes Publishing, as well as Tom Becker himself.)