It’s the summer of 1998 and seven friends have just finished their final exams. School is over and now all they have in front of them is warm, relaxing days before college starts in September.
Coming from a small mining village in The Midlands just outside Nottingham, Neve and her friends try to make the best of their time off without causing too much havoc for the locals. There isn’t much to do however, other than sit around on the field smoking, drinking and experimenting with a bit of weed. That is until friends Michael and Baz discover a small hut close to the entrance of the mine that has been disregarded.
This hut becomes their haven and each night they meet here. To make it seem less tragic they have added posters, a couple of bean bags, a coffee table and even a fridge to store their drinks, although with no electricity available they don’t stay that chilled.
Then one evening, catastrophe strikes. Chloe, Neve’s best friend, goes missing and after weeks of searching, all hope finally fades after a bloody top belonging to the sixteen-year-old is found.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Neve is struggling. Her fiancé has left her. Well he left a note telling her he was leaving her but hasn’t actually reappeared to collect any of his belongings and she is now using this as her main excuse for her dependency on alcohol. Of course, she doesn’t have a real problem; she is still functioning daily, albeit only just.
For three years she has been part owner in The Tree Tea Cafe in London with her best friend, Esther. They went to university together and have been thick as thieves ever since. Except, in recent weeks, Neve is beginning to feel like she has become more of an employee as Esther struggles with her friend’s tardy nature and her lack of consideration for how her actions impact the business: their livelihood.
To try and make up for her wayward nature, Neve offers to close up so that Esther for once, can get home early to spend time with her young child. However, even this doesn’t go to plan. Exhausted and still hung-over from the previous day, Neve decides a little pick me up is in order and opens a bottle of wine to help calm her nerves while she cashes up. But then, out of the corner of her eye, she notices a shadow lingering outside and before she can think too hard about it, she goes out to see who is there.
The street is empty but Neve has a distinct feeling that she was personally being watched. Paranoia is clearly kicking in. Hurrying now, she finishes closing up and heads home trying to shrug off the uneasiness that is beginning to bubble.
Trying to be a better friend and business partner, Neve is the first one in the following day, only to realise that they have had a break-in. Initially, it looks like nothing has been taken but once Esther arrives and takes a proper look at the place she can see that the safe is wide open and the takings for the last few days have gone. Neve, of course, had screwed up again. In her drunken fog, she did place the takings in the safe but forgot to actually close and lock it which means their insurance company won’t payout.
Can things actually get any worse?
Her once strong friendship is quickly disintegrating, Esther has sent her home, probably because she can no longer look at her without wanting to scream and she is worried that she will lose not only her best friend but the business they have spent so long trying to build up.
The solution: a sabbatical. Neve works out that she can afford to take a few weeks off, get herself up straight again and then throw herself back into being a good friend and an exceptional business partner.
Just when she feels like she is getting a grip on reality however, a blast from her past gets in touch. Jamie Hardman, her first love has gone missing, just like Chloe did all those years ago.
Could everything that has been happening to her recently be just a coincidence, or is her past coming back to haunt her? The only way to find out is to return to the village and help with the search.
My Thoughts on Dark Corners
Mixing two different stories, the reader learns about both Neve’s present-day life alongside what happened to her and her friends 20 years previously. I was already hooked by the time Neve heads back to the mining village to help look for her lost friend, wanting to know more about both timelines.
Reading the chapters, I began to feel the tension that Neve must have felt walking back through the streets and her old memories.
This is an emotive story about how friendships can be lost overnight. How a decision made as a teenager to leave can cause pain and suffering for a lifetime to others. This is a novel that sees a group of young people torn apart by the loss of a friend; a loss that should have brought them closer together, but actually rips them apart.
As with any good crime writing, it’s the twists however, that capture the reader and Dark Corners has a twist that hits you like a sledgehammer. As realisation slaps you in the face, the story you have already read begins to unfold in a new way. You reflect on aspects of the plot and see a new possibility hidden behind the words; a new meaning that you hadn’t picked up on before. This is a crime novel that grasps and squeezes so tightly at your heartstrings, you feel a real need to cry for the fictional characters that have lost so much.
Have you read Dark Corners or any of Darren O’Sullivan’s other novels? Would you recommend his work to others?
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