Author: Tom Becker
Publication Date: September 10th 2015
Publisher: Stripes Publishig
~A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review~
When Darla and her feckless dad, Hopper, move to Saffron Hills, Darla hopes it'll be a new start for the both of them. But she stands no chance of fitting in with the image-obsessed in-crowd at her new school. Then one of her classmates is brutally killed when taking a photo of herself. A murder Darla herself predicted in a bloody vision. When more teens die in a similar fashion it appears that a serial killer is on the loose - the 'Selfie Slayer'. Darla alone is convinced that the murderer might not be flesh and blood.
Dark Room is the latest instalment in the Red Eye series, and it seems that I’ve been loving every other book in it, and although I have a few little issues with it, it was a damn good one. Dark Room is very standard for YA mystery/crime, it follows the same formula and isn’t anything new, that being said, the added use of technology and a surprising killer made the Dark Room stand out.
Dark Room is written in third person, which leads to my first issue, the mostly always issue I have with third person, while it’s a chance it give us a broader look at the whole story, we can learn so much more from it, but I can almost never form a connection to the characters, and unfortunately, that was the case with the Dark Room. It’s not the characters fault, they were nice and relatable, like Darla, but if somewhat 2D, like the co-characters of The Dark Room, I didn’t feel like there was much behind them, like Sasha and Frank, but they did their job in the story, so it didn’t bother me that much.
Dark Room turns social media against its victims, the ‘Angel Taker’ likes taking beautiful photos and art, and the Angel Taker, in its own warped twisted view, thinks a dead beauty queen is more beautiful than a live one. And now, the Angel Taker is creating a new project. The Angel Taker chooses the ‘Angels’ through their ‘selfies’, and subtlety, their narcissism.
The ‘visions’ Darla gets about the Angel Taker and its victims are eerie and amp up the creepy factor, and it’s the perfect atmosphere. What was great about The Dark Room though, is that I didn’t figure out who the Angel Taker was until three quarters through it, and if you know me and serial killer books, I usually get it right, and while I did get it right, I so wasn’t expecting that twist. So thanks for that, Dark Room.
If you’ve been reading and loving the Red Eye series, you’re going to love the latest instalment, Dark Room, it’s creepy, it’s bloody, it has a damn right good twist, and honestly, I think this is my favourite.
The girl stopped by a large framed photograph. It was a family portrait, taken a couple of years earlier: Mom and Dad sitting together on a couch, their hands clasped, whilst Walter and his sister stood dutiful guard either side of them.
“The West family, in all their glory,” he said dryly. “Terrible, isn’t it?”
“It’s sweet!” she replied. “Don’t you like photographs?”
“Actually, I do – when I’m not in them.” Walter paused. “In fact I have my own studio here in the house. Would you like to see it?”
“Sure,” she said politely.
He led her out of the dining room and along a corridor, moving quickly now. Stopping at a door beneath the main staircase, he pushed it open to reveal a set of narrow steps leading down into the basement. When he gestured eagerly at the girl to go down them, she hesitated.
“The bulb on the stairs needs changing,” he said apologetically. “Keep hold of the handrail and you’ll be fine.”
A little reluctantly, she started down the stairs. Walter closed the door behind him, plunging them into darkness. Sensing the girl’s nervousness as she edged towards the basement, he began to chatter in what he hoped was a reassuring way.
“It kinda sucks that I have to come down here,” he said. “I told Mom and Dad that I needed a better room but they told me this was the only space they had. I said, OK, let’s move my sister down here and I can use her bedroom, but I got outvoted.”
The girl didn’t laugh, too busy concentrating on navigating the steps through the gloom. When they reached the basement floor Walter slipped past her, feeling his way over to the wall.
“Wait, let me get the light.”
His fingers closed upon the switch, and he flicked it on. Bright, safe light poured into the basement. The girl found herself staring into a dusty, full-length mirror leaning against the wall – she jumped, startled by her own reflection.
“You OK?” asked Walter.
She laughed nervously. “Sorry. I scared myself there.”
The girl looked around. The basement had been converted into a makeshift studio, centered around a modelling space surrounded by flashlights on stands and a white screen backdrop. Expensive cameras perched on tripods, lenses glinting in the light. Framed photographs covered the walls.
“Phew!” she said, placing a hand over her heart. “For a minute there I was expecting some kind of dungeon.”
“I clean up the bloodied corpses before the guests come round,” Walter replied, deadpan. “Mom insists.”
The girl smiled, starting to relax a little. She went over to the far wall to examine the photographs. They were a series of landscape shots of the woods around Saffron Hills. Dawn sunlight shimmered through the pine trees.
“These are beautiful,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Walter. “The hard part is getting up early enough to catch the light.”
“You should become a professional. People would pay good money for these.”
“Maybe. I don’t know how many more tasteful landscapes the world needs.”
As the girl peered closer at the photographs, an idea occurred to Walter. Quietly he picked up a camera and focused it on her. He waited until he had framed her face – unguarded, absorbed, biting on her lip in a slightly pensive way – and then he took her picture.
“Hey, quit it!” she laughed.
“Come on, just a couple of photos for my portfolio!” He fired off another before the girl could protest. “You look great!”
She laughed – flattered, but trying not to show it. Walter meant what he said. She really was very pretty, in a naive and utterly natural way. Like a startled deer in the woods.
“I’ve just finished my latest album,” he told her, his heart beginning to beat a little faster as he trained the camera on her face. “Take a look, I think you’ll like them.”
“This one, you mean?” she replied, going over to the desk and pointing at the embossed album.
Walter waited until he had the shot. “Perfect,” he said quietly.
The girl opened the album.
Crystal’s ruined face stared back at her. The beauty queen’s blue eyes had been dulled, her long blond hair matted with blood and the top of her skull crushed almost beyond recognition.
The girl screamed.
As she reeled away from the photo album, her hands over her face, Walter’s finger clicked rapidly on the shutter button, firing away like it was the trigger of a gun. His pulse was racing, his heart thundering in his chest. He was so excited he could barely breathe. Sternly he forced himself to concentrate, to focus on capturing the screaming girl.
“What have you done?” she gasped.
“I told you I was bored of landscapes,” Walter said.