Edward Rollins is worth something in the neighborhood of $2 million dollars. He works at an investment firm in Boston in a dead end job, and he has no aspirations to move higher. He was once a reporter but he got burned out when he took a certain story too far. He is also a voyeur. Following people and watching their mundane lives is the one thing he enjoys no one in particular, just a random car here or there. He details each “pursuit” on a tape recorder, and through this hobby, he comes alive.
One night he follows an Audi chosen for no particular reason. As he tails the car north out of Boston, it proceeds as a normal pursuit for Rollins. However, following a number of quick, unsignaled turns, the Audi pulls into a quiet residential neighborhood and parks in front of an unassuming house. The driver quickly heads to the door, unlocks it, and slips inside. Rollins is perplexed and a little unnerved though, when no lights are turned on. Fearing that he was spotted and wanting to avoid confrontation, Rollins heads off into the night.
That experience rattles and unnerves him to the point that he breaks one of his own rules; he shares some personal information with someone. That lucky person is a younger co-worker named Marj. She is eager to learn more and actively pumps Rollins for further details. And that's when the troubles begin.
The Dark House is a tense and intriguing debut novel from author John Sedgwick. He has created a complex and troubled hero in Edward Rollins, and a spunky, if somewhat less fleshed out, heroine in Marj. Both characters behave in a realistic fashion. There are no unbelievable heroics, no Einsteinian leaps of logic, simply basic human reaction. Granted, Rollins has his problems, and his family is certainly dysfunctional, but the characters are the heart of this story, and they do not disappoint.
Sedgwick has a way with words as well. He has created a multi-layered mystery, which does not immediately surrender its secrets.
While readers may begin to intuit the direction the mystery is heading, Sedgwick is able to throw them off the trail with unexplained twists. Each time the plot appears to be sorting itself out another surprise is added, keeping his reader in suspense until the very end.
Wes Breazeale is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that he grew up in an unassuming house north of Boston is purely coincidence. Really.