Book review: ‘The Dark Descending’ by Allen Eskens

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Max Rupert is a homicide detective in Minneapolis, Minn. Four 1/2 years ago, his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver. In Max’s mind, it was payback for one of his cases, but which one? He was not allowed to investigate because it was his wife who was killed. Not satisfied with a conclusion that it was an accident, he tried to get involved. He got in trouble. Later, an anonymous source directed him to the car used in the hit and run. After an initial investigation, he dutifully turned the information over to the department, but attempted to stay involved. He got a second reprimand.

Since he was a leading homicide detective in the department, he soon became involved in another case. A van had exploded with a body inside. But the perpetrator had been careless, used gasoline, gave time for fumes to build, caught himself in the explosion and became a fireball. He desperately called 911. The crime proved not too tough to solve. When the “fireball” turned out to be the deputy chief of staff to the mayor, a series of events led to a person high in the police department. That in turn led to criminal activity that related to the death of Max’s wife. Max learned that it was not retribution for his work, but rather what his wife, a hospital social worker, had discovered that led to her murder.

All pretense is off. Max now devotes full time to finding the murderer or as he soon learns, murderers. While clearing a deceased lawyer’s files, a friend of Max locates a tape of the phone call where his wife’s murder was planned. It had apparently been kept as part of a blackmail scheme. There was the Boss, the Planner and the actual Killer, who had been ordered to run her down in the parking lot because she knew too much.

Max’s wife, Jenni, had been working with a young Russian girl who had been thrown through a plate-glass window. It turned out that the girl had been brought to the United States and forced into prostitution. Jenni had discovered this as well as the name of the woman’s “owner.” Thus, she had to be eliminated for learning “too much.”

“The Dark Descending” presents the mystery in an unusual manner. The story unfolds with alternating chapters, one leading to the end game and one explaining how we got there. Once the reader is used to it, the method is very effective. The story alternates between events in Minneapolis and a lake on the Canadian border. The Boss has been caught there by Rupert; he is the person awaiting his fate as the auger bites into the ice. Surely Rupert won’t force him into the freezing water?

What led to his capture, and what of the other two? Chapter by chapter, the story is revealed as the auger continues to bore through three feet of ice.

Author Allen Eskens will be at the Westby Area Performing Center on Thursday, Aug. 22, as part of Vernon County Reads. The event is free. For more information, contact any public library in Vernon County.

 

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