Psychologist Chloe Davis has tried to escape her dark past. Her father has been in prison since she was 12 years old for the murder of six teenage girls. Now, 20 years later and in a different city, teenage girls begin to go missing, and her past comes crashing back.
From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.
When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.
Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?
In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.
Before I dive in, I want to preface my review with the fact that my opinion seems to be unpopular. I know that this book has yet to be published, but it has high ratings on Storygraph and Goodreads. It has also received pretty positive reviews on Bookstagram.
A Flicker in the Dark is an eloquently written debut novel that follows a protagonist as teenage girls disappear in similar to the manner in which her father kidnapped and killed teenage girls 20 years before.
A Flicker in the Dark is very well written. The prose is strong and descriptive without being overdone, although there were quite a few nonsensical metaphors. While I enjoyed reading the words and could easily picture the story, I found the book to be slow and slogged through it. It took me way longer than it normally does to read a book, because I would put it down and not feel motivated to pick it up again.
Another big problem with A Flicker in the Dark was its predictability. While Willingham threw red herring after red herring at the reader, it was apparent from the beginning who the murderer was. I questioned my theory a few times during the novel; however, it was apparent how the mystery would play out. If you do not read many mysteries or thrillers, perhaps you will not find it as predictable as I did. I pushed through the book rather than not finishing it simply to see if I was correct.
There were two other issues that bothered me. The first being the protagonist and her portrayal. I am so tired of thrillers relying on protagonists having a mental illness or substance use issue(s). Authors seem to think that this is the only way to create unreliable narrators. I would also argue that most often authors are misrepresenting those with mental illness.
How many teenage girls have diamond earrings and sapphire rings? Is this a Southern thing? Should I be upset that I only had “costume” jewelry at that age? The plot for some reason specified (and relied on) the fact that these teenage girls had such jewelry. It was weird, and I found it distracting. I know that is a bit nit-picky. While I am focusing on little details, Willingham also mixed up a kayak with a canoe.
I do not want it to sound like this book does not have any redeeming qualities or that it is a horrible book. Overall, I found A Flicker in the Dark to be fine. But with all the books out there, I wish I had not spent time reading it when there are better mysteries that are actually mysterious and not completely predictable. If you are tired of books that rely on a self-medicated unreliable narrator, serial killers murdering young women, civilian protagonists that insert themselves in police investigations, and controlling and/or abuse men as suspects or characters, skip this book. With that said, if you do not mind a slow burn mystery that is not very original but is well written, give A Flicker in the Dark a try.
A Flicker in the Dark
Mysteries & Thrillers
January 11, 2022
One response to “A Flicker in the Dark”
Wow.. what a review! I laughed, I winced, I even snorted a few times.
This was a ‘must read’ for me but several of the issues you had would drive me crazy. I’m pretty tired of the use of ‘substance abuse’ to supposedly make characters more “intense” or interesting. It’s getting old.
Shame you didn’t enjoy it more but thank you for your honesty! And have a very Merry Christmas!