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Darkroom
Mary Maddox, author
Talented but unstable photographer Day Randall has been living rent-free in Kelly Durrell's Colorado condo for eight months. Day needs someone to keep an eye on her. Kelly needs someone to draw her out of her stable but not spectacular life. The arrangement works for both of them. Then Kelly comes home one day to find Day gone. There's no note, no phone call. Day's car is still parked out front, but her room is starkly, suspiciously spotless. No one seems to care. The police certainly aren't interested in a missing bipolar artist, but Kelly knows something is wrong. Day wouldn't just leave. Alone, Kelly traces Day's last steps through shadowy back rooms of Boulder nightclubs and to a remote mountain estate, where the wealthy protect themselves behind electric fences and armed guards. Along the way, she uncovers a sinister underworld lying just below the mountain snow, and a group of powerful people who will do anything to protect the secrets hidden in Day's enigmatic photographs. If she trusts the wrong person, Kelly herself will be the next to disappear.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.25 out of 10

Assessment:

When her houseguest disappears, Kelly Durrell is determined to find the unreliable but talented photographer in this suspenseful mystery.  Kelly is a believable and sympathetic character and the supporting cast is equally strong. Detailed descriptions create a convincing setting and atmosphere. And while there are no huge surprises, the gradual revelation of the story is well-paced, engaging, and builds to a well-orchestrated climax. The open ending adds realism to an enjoyable page-turner.

Date Submitted: September 07, 2016

Reviews
Best Thrillers

The Bottom Line: One of the year’s best crime thrillers. Mary Maddox just may be the dark princess of suspense we’ve all been waiting for.

Darkroom by Mary MaddoxWhat would you do if your best friend went missing? That’s the compelling question at the core of Darkroom, which puts Boulder resident Kelly Durrell in the role of anyone who has ever realized that they are all that stands between someone they care about and tragedy.

Day Randall, named after a 70s rock band, is a freelance photographer who has been living rent-free in Durrell’s condo. Given Day’s bohemian lifestyle, there’s little evidence that she hasn’t simply moved on. But after the cops show little progress in the investigation, Kelly – a museum employee with no formal investigative skills – tries to make sense of Day’s circle of associates, including the Helms, a family of wealthy business magnates. Kelly’s investigation takes a sudden turn when she’s given a fragment of a road map to a remote mountain estate. Soon after, she realizes that the trouble that found her friend may well find her as well.

In a genre full of heroines that seem entirely too clever and smug, Maddox’s Kelly is a hugely relatable breath of fresh air. Tenacious, but hardly reckless nor extraordinarily brave, Kelly simply does what we hope anyone would do for us, even as she finds herself faced with a nightmare underworld of predators and prey.

In terms of subject matter and tone, Darkroom is a close cousin to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or TV’s True Detective. A gifted wordsmith, Maddox uses the Colorado landscape to great effect in creating suspense (“Highway 119 tracked Boulder Creek upstream through bottlenecks and blasted rock, sudden curves and harrowing switchbacks, rising more than three thousand feet in sixteen miles.”) Even in a world where technology seems to have erased personal privacy, Maddox reminds us that we still live in a world where doing evil, and hiding it, is disturbingly easy. Highly recommended.

Readers' Favorite

Whoa! Just, whoa! That's exactly what I thought when I finished reading Darkroom, the newest work by author Mary Maddox. A thrilling, suspenseful and dark tale, this story will keep readers on the edge of their seats from the start all the way through until the very end. Follow the story of Kelly Durrell and Day Randall, two friends who have come to a living arrangement that seems to be working well for both of them. Until, of course, the day that Kelly comes home to find Day missing. Day's always had her issues, and Kelly thought that she was doing a good job of keeping an eye on her. Kelly begins a harrowing search for her friend, and soon finds that Day's prodigious talent for photography has led her down some dark and twisty paths, ones that Kelly herself will need to travel if she has a chance of saving her friend.

I so enjoyed Darkroom. Author Mary Maddox has done a fantastic job in creating characters that her readers will be able to connect with, will relate to, and will truly come to care about. If that isn't a hallmark of a great author, I'm not sure what is. And the story itself is extremely readable. I found myself obsessively turning the pages from the start all the way to the finish, determined to find out what happened! In fact, the only advice I have for readers, other than to read this book, is to make sure that they have enough time to read it from cover to cover all at once. They simply will not want to put it down! I highly recommend Darkroom to any reader, and look forward to more from the very talented author, Mary Maddox, as soon as possible!

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