‘Island of the Lost was the isle’s name long before the hospital was built. In winter, they say the fog falls so heavy there that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Storms rage so forcefully you can be blown from the cliffs. Once St. Christina’s was built, the name took on a new meaning. Very few who went into that place ever left.’
DCI Tom Reynolds is bearing the brunt of a leak to the media implying he had mismanaged an investigation, bringing into question his reputation and his suitability to lead the team.
Tom’s boss, the deplorable Chief Superintendent Joe Kennedy, is distinctly lacking in support, working to his own agenda as ever, taking Tom off present murder cases under the guise of letting the fuss die down.Tom is surprised and annoyed when Kennedy phones him on Christmas Day with a news of a cold case he wants Tom to investigate. A mass grave has been uncovered on Oileán na Coillte, a small island off the coast of Kerry and the site of the now defunct psychiatric hospital, St Christina’s. A body that shouldn’t have been there was found in the grave.
Miriam Howe has been waiting, and living in hope, for the last forty years for Conrad, her husband, to come home. Every Christmas she decorated the house just as it was the day he should have returned from his job as one of the senior doctors at St Christina’s. Just in case. Even though in her heart of hearts, she knew. But now a body has been found and reality knocks at the door in the shape of DCI Reynolds.
Tom wonders if this is another ploy by Joe Kennedy, giving him a case from so long ago, hoping for Tom to fail. The asylum has been closed for a good while and there can’t be many people left to interview. But no, Kennedy is hoping solving such an old case might be to his advantage. Miriam’s brother is a Supreme Court Judge.
‘I know,’ Kennedy said. ‘You’re angry and you’ve every right to be. You’ve put up with a lot these last few months, Tom. And I’ve been giving you lesser cases. You’re entitled to feel pissed off. But look, forty years old or not, this was – is – one of the most high-profile disappearances of the last century. Will you go and talk to Howe’s widow, Miriam? I think that when you meet her, you’ll want to take this on.’
I’m so glad I found Jo Spain’s books, thanks in no small part to Eva (@noveldeelights) The Darkest Place is another excellent instalment in the Tom Reynolds series. This story, like previous ones, highlights deeply shocking practices—a chilling reminder of a not so long ago past, when unwanted family members were shipped off to asylums, sometimes for the flimsiest of reasons. Where the doctors held all the power and patients, who had no way out and no-one to turn to, were subjected to the most horrific so called treatments, as the diary extracts sprinkled throughout the narrative show. Although this is fiction, it is based entirely on fact which makes it all the more horrendous.
The atmosphere of the island and the empty asylum is conveyed with disturbing clarity. The feeling of being isolated, with no wifi, a very hit and miss mobile signal and the weather conditions all add the overall eerie sense of place. There are secrets and lies to sift through, and several suspects with motives. Tom and his team could have no inkling of the wickedness they would uncover.
Jo Spain has delivered another fast paced, compelling read with some totally unexpected, clever twists, and I loved the ending. As always, Aoife McMahon’s narration, along with her command of the different accents, is superb.
Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world. Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body. She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle. Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing. Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.