Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it. Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts is a supernatural crime novel set in London, and is the second novel by author A.K. Benedict. There are two main point of view characters, the titular Jonathan Dark, a D.I. who is dealing with the collapse of his marriage, and Maria King. Maria was born blind, and later had successful corrective surgery to restore her sight, but chooses to wear a blindfold, rendering herself still effectively blind. When Maria begins to receive disturbing messages from a stalker who claims to be in love with her, Jonathan is assigned to the case.
For me, Maria was the most immediately interesting character. The idea of someone who was born blind, had their sight restored and then still choose to live as a blind person was fascinating. Maria was in no way constrained by her disability, living an active life with her mudlarking and history interests, and having a small social circle. I felt that her disability was generally handled in a sensitive fashion, even when other characters couldn’t understand why she chose the blindfold. Unfortunately, in the last half of the book, her character devolved somewhat. It felt as though Benedict was trying too hard to write her as a Strong and Defiant Female Character, which is clearly preferable to a character who sobs in the corner all the time, but it did end up, for me, as Maria ending up reading more as a stereotype than I would have liked.
Jonathan Dark was also an interesting character – he’s dealing with failures with previous cases and the collapse of his marriage, as well as balancing secret aspects of his own life (the nature of which I won’t elaborate, but again, was something that Benedict dealt with well, I fell). His backstory was fascinating, and watching as he discovered the supernatural side of London (and came to terms with his own past) made for a gripping story.
I need to note here that I’m not someone who reads a lot of crime fiction, and I was primarily drawn to this book because of the supernatural elements. That said, for me, the crime portions of the book were definitely the weaker. I felt like there were too many points of view flicking back and forth too much, and too much revealed early on, which detracted from what could have been an engrossing crime plot. Other readers’ mileage will certainly vary there, though, I think.
There’s a lot to like about this book. The supernatural elements are fascinating, and it feels like Benedict has really fleshed out a vivid alternate London peopled by ghosts as well as the living. Both Jonathan Dark and Maria are complex, interesting characters into whose stories it was easy to sink. For some of the scattered nature of the book and the places where characters became more two-dimensional that I would have liked, I found this an easy read and would recommend.