Title: Dark Currents
Author: Doug Burgess
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Length: 259 Pages
Category: Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery
Content Warning: For deadnaming and misgendering of the MC by some characters
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Dark Currents is an engaging and suspenseful cozy mystery full of tangled webs and some explosive secrets in a secluded small town. I enjoyed this one a good deal, but please note the content warning.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: No one ever talks about what happens in Little Compton…
When David left home three years ago, he never looked back. Now, the only connection to his tiny New England hometown is his grandmother Maggie, whose mind is unraveling as she slowly succumbs to dementia. But when her best friend turns up dead and she may be the sole witness to the crime, David has no choice but to return to a place that never accepted his trans identity and only ever wanted him gone.
Maggie’s testimony is shrouded in doubt—in between moments of lucidity she talks about things that never happened, about apparitions, disappearances, and murders. But are they really only stories? After a man’s death sets off a hauntingly familiar chain of events, it seems there’s some truth to Maggie’s words.
With a body count on the rise, David begrudgingly tunes back into the rural voices of the tight-knit community to seek out the truth. And while David returns home a changed man, he finds that the ghosts of his past have waited for him. He’ll have to face them head-on before he can begin to unravel his grandmother’s story and finally put to rest the mysteries of this little town, lost in the fog.
Even if no one talks about what happens in Little Compton, the dark currents beneath the silence create baffling crime puzzles for transgender sleuth David to unravel, and promise that the past is never sunk as deep as we think.
Note: This novel appears to have been previously published under the title Fogland Point.
Review: “ . . . this is Little Compton, where nothing ever happens.”
David Hazard narrates those words late in the telling of his story, which leaves readers no choice but to revel in the delicious irony of what would have been an entirely innocuous comment had he said it in the beginning; then, I’d have had no reason not to believe him. But make no mistake, Little Compton ups the ante in the secrets and scandals department, and author Doug Burgess delivers it all via a cast of characters who add to the flavor of the story. The history, the local lore, the ghosts of centuries past haunting the town and its waters—at least figuratively if not literally—a murder mystery, and a tightknit, feisty, and loyal group of elderly women that’s only growing smaller as time marches on, combine to make for a twisty and overall entertaining read.
David didn’t choose to come back to Little Compton. Being fired (unjustly) from his job as a professor of history has left him with no income and no immediate prospects, so he’s returned to his hometown to live with and take care of his grandmother, who, thanks to advancing dementia, needs near round-the-clock care now. The moments of Grandma Maggie’s lucidity are getting fewer and farther between, which means that when she calls the police to report she’s discovered a dead body, no one believes her. When David himself steps next door to check on his aunt Emma, it leads to a shocking discovery and the truth that Maggie wasn’t having hallucinations at all when she reported Emma’s death. Maggie’s jumbled tale of lobsters and how Emma died, and two strangers in attendance at Emma’s funeral, only elevate the level of intrigue around the question: was Emma’s death an accident, or was it murder?
David has his own history in this town, and coming face to face with that, along with seeing his ex, now the chief of police, Billy Dyer, is a painful and awkward reminder of their past, their relationship, what never came to be, and their breakup, and why David ultimately left so he could live as himself and on his own terms. He endures more than his fair share of misgendering and people calling him by his birthname upon his return to Little Compton, and even a little ribbing from his grandmother and aunts, and while I can’t speak to the ways in which the author handled those moments in any sort of personal way, or to the authenticity of David’s reactions and feelings about them—some readers may simply want to avoid this book altogether out of a sense of self-care—I can say that from my perspective, the way David faced those moments allowed me to make an emotional connection to him in ways I might not have otherwise.
Before too long, David and Billy pair up and begin working together to solve not only the mystery of Emma’s death but what is becoming a veritable crimewave in Little Compton, which leads to some close proximity and a second chance for them. Their reconciliation doesn’t tip this novel into romance territory, though. Things between them are not deeply hashed or fleshed out on page; some might say it’s handled a bit too simplistically, or that David shouldn’t have forgiven Billy at all, but it’s a fresh start for them nonetheless. They are both different people in emotionally different places now, and the inclusion of something conceivably good for David amidst all the murder and drama and upheaval and heartache was a nice change in the face of the danger and rising body count.
All in all, Dark Currents is a suspenseful cozy mystery full of tangled webs and some explosive secrets—the oral histories within the story are a significant part of the novel’s intrigue. Things are propelled along dramatically by Aunts Constance and Irene, and the race to find a killer(s) mixes relatably with the heartbreaking reality of David losing his Grandma Maggie by degrees every day to dementia. Burgess’s voice is engaging, and the ghosts of bygone days combined with the moral gray areas and secrets people keep, together added up to a sometimes humorous and often engaging read.
You can buy Dark Currents here:
[zilla_button url=”https://books2read.com/Dark-Currents” style=”black” size=”large” type=”round” target=”_blank”] Amazon & Other eTailers [/zilla_button]