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The Darkness Gathers, Lisa Miscione, St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95.

The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione

This is a superior thriller, the second in a series for Lisa Miscione, featuring true crime writer Lydia Strong and her ex-FBI agent-turned-PI boyfriend, Jeffrey Mark. Lydia has lots of backstory - apparently established in the first novel, Angel Fire, which, while it didn't hamper my interest in this novel, certainly whet my appetite for the first book. To put it briefly, Lydia's mother was murdered by a serial killer when she was 15 years old. She met Jeffrey at that young age but they were not involved until, as an adult, she wrote a bestseller about the man who killed her mother, Jed McIntryre, and used Jeffery as a source. When The Darkness Gathers opens, Lydia and Jeffrey are living happily together in New York City. Of course things are about to change.

When Lydia opens an envelope containing a tape and a letter - with a young girl's voice on the tape begging for help - she feels what she calls "the Buzz" - a feeling that compels her to unearth the truth, no matter what. I think this is Miscione's version of the "white knight" complex found in so many classic noir set ups - from Estleman to Parker to Lehane to Connelly. Jeffery, respecting "the Buzz", agrees to accompany Lydia to Miami where they can look into the disappearance of the girl on the tape, Tatiana.

The story from there becomes complex and violent - think Faye Kellerman. Miscione, however, being a younger woman, has a younger woman's sensibility and brings a real youthful vitality to her writing that has been missing in Kellerman's work for some time. She also has more of a "noir" sensibility - while Kellerman's Rina and Decker may admit the existence of evil, they still believe in forms of order (for Peter, the police department, for Rina, religion) that give their life a solid center. Miscione's heroine Lydia finds a center only with Jeffrey; the rest of the world, incredibly corrupt and dangerous, spins on around them. It's wonderful to have a young new voice added to the mystery scene - hopefully she'll stick around as long as the aforementioned Kellerman, and make her own indelible mark.

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