I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers because nothing turns out the way you thought it would. Digger Cartwright does a phenomenal job with The House of Dark Shadows. I thought I had everything figured out due to the clues he gave us along the way, but I was blown off course. The ending isn’t exactly what you expect nor is it your typical Hollywood ending, but it fits.
Alex Rommel has everything a bachelor could ask for. He’s successful at his job and quite the ladies man, but he’s missing the love of his life. Years ago Shannon left him and he’s been haunted with memories of her and desperately searches for her. He runs into an old university friend, Brad, at a café and Brad mentions how he’s met the love of his life. He introduces Lisa to Alex and when Alex inquires how they met, Brad tells him the internet. Alex is skeptical because you never know who is behind the screen, but needless to say he’s intrigued. As he prepares to leave the café he overhears Brad tell Lisa about the rumors surrounding Alex, he killed an ex-girlfriend; however, both of them disregard the rumors. Later that evening, Alex signs up for internet dating and meets the perfect woman, Hope. Little does he know he’s about to step into a tangled world of deception and the person he thought he could trust the most turns out to be his biggest enemy.
In terms of character development, it’s strong and the writing is engaging. Cartwright has a business background and he does a great job taking elements from the business world and incorporating them into the narrative. At times it was difficult to sympathize with Alex because he’s particular in his ways and yet when he first receives that phone call from Hope’s mother you can’t help but want to yell “run from the crazy Alex!” He has a trusted mentor, Thomas, but for the most part he was too closed off and only allowed a selected few into his inner circle of trust and ultimately this is where Alex went wrong. Alex also suffers from nightmares and in many ways foreshadows a lot of what happens to Alex and shows us what happened to Shannon. It’s Alex who refuses to look into it and it’s proof he’s a man running from his own demons.
In a day and age where you can virtually find any information about a person, I’m surprised Alex didn’t take the initiative to further look into Hope’s background. If the house on the street is the only one that doesn’t look right, search the house address and find out what you can. I remind myself had Alex done this, we wouldn’t have a story. I had all sorts of theories regarding Hope. At one point Alex is told Shannon was beaten to the point where she needed reconstructive surgery and a piece of me held out hope (no pun intended) that it was Hope. I’m not saying anymore about the plot, but I loved it.
There are some unanswered questions, but I just file them away as answered since the ending I believe confirms Alex’s suspicion when Thomas tells him, “you should have given them what they wanted.” Thomas calls this a mind-fuck when Alex asks him what everything around him is at that moment (I’m not saying what it is for fear of spoilers) and oh this book was definitely one.
If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers or looking to try a new genre, I highly recommend The House of Dark Shadows. I’ve never read Digger Cartwright before and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.