Twelve months after a violent injury ended her career with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Kate Parks discovers a corpse washed ashore in Tampa Bay. Then another. And another. What’s worse: the bodies all seem to have one thing in common: a connection to the tragedy that took her young nephew’s life.
Now, as the Florida west coast braces for an approaching hurricane, Kate launches an off-the book investigation into the mystery. And in a brewing storm of rage, guilt, and childhood secrets, someone watches. Someone stalks. Something hides in the darkness.
About the Author
JC Gatlin is an award-winning author with Millford House Press, the mystery-suspense imprint for Sunbury Press. His 2019 mystery H_NGM_N: Murder is the Word won “Gold – Top Mystery or Crime Fiction of 2019” at the Florida Royal Palm Literary Awards. Prior to that, he wrote three Indie mystery-suspense novels set in Florida, including 21 Dares, which went to Number One on Amazon’s Top Mystery Suspense and Top Young Adult charts. His newest book, Darkness Hides, was published in April 2021. JC lives in Tampa, Florida and is a member of the Florida Writer’s Association and a board member of the Florida Writer’s Foundation.
Kate found a battery-operated Coleman lantern discarded on the kitchen floor and flipped it on. It lit up the room, and she carried it upstairs, where Elise sat alone in Noah’s bedroom.
“I want to be alone,” Elise said, sitting in the rocker.
Kate didn’t respond, listening to the rain and wind pummel the house. The walls creaked so eerily in the gale-force winds that she wondered if they could collapse around them. Stuffed animals above the bed trembled. Her pet squirrel, Doc, raised up on her shoulder, swishing his bushy tail. The lantern cast a pale glow around the bedroom. With the windows boarded up, any area outside the lantern light was lost in thick, inky blackness. Though she couldn’t see the lightning, she could hear the angry thunder compete with the rain beating the roof.
The bookcase rattled, keeping her on edge. She glanced at Elise, huddled in the rocking chair. Her sister wrapped the afghan tighter over her shoulders and locked her arms around her knees.
The walls trembled with another thunderclap, shaking the bookcase, and knocked the worn copy of Where the Darkness Hides to the floor. Kate jumped at the loud thump. Doc jumped too and leaped to the floor to investigate. She raised the lantern and looked around the room. Many of the stuffed animals had fallen onto the small bed. A model airplane dangled from the ceiling, swaying violently from the turbulence. A toy box sat positioned under the window.
Letting out a breath, she shut her eyes and focused on the rain thumping the roof. It intensified, then quieted. The sound was hypnotic, and she didn’t even hear Doogie enter the bedroom. He shined a flashlight in her direction and paused in the doorway.
“Sebastian made landfall”—his voice rose above another loud boom of thunder—“south of Sarasota.”
Kate couldn’t see him behind the blinding light in his hands, and when he lowered the flashlight, it still took a moment for her eyes to adjust. She sensed him stepping beside her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Doc dash across the floor toward him.
“We’ve just got to make it through the night.” He walked over to the rocking chair and put a hand on Elise’s shoulder.
Doc followed, cautiously investigating the cuff of his right pant leg.
“It’s about to get worse,” Kate said.
A corner of Elise’s mouth turned upward, but her smile was without humor. She turned to Doogie. “Why didn’t you sell her to gypsies or leave her in the woods somewhere?”
The wind howled at the window, and a sudden gust ripped the plywood from the casing. The glass shattered. Wind and rain blew into the room.
Elise screamed. The rocker overturned, spilling her to the floor. Kate and Doogie rushed to the bed, flipped the mattress off it, and forced it to the open window. They fought the incoming wind. The force bent the mattress, folded it like a sheet of paper, and pushed them back. Doogie shoved the mattress against the window and held it there. He yelled at Kate to move the bookcase. She got to one side of it and scooted it across the carpet to the front of the mattress.
The mattress shuddered in front of the broken window. The wind squealed and screamed like a dying thing. Kate and Doogie were silent for a couple of minutes, staring at each other.
“It’s not going to hold,” Kate yelled to him over the wind.
“We need to go downstairs.” He pointed toward the bedroom door. “It’s not safe in here.”
Rating: 4 stars
*I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review*
I really enjoyed reading Darkness Hides. It is a solid mystery novel built around the tragic death of Kate’s nephew. A lot of time is taken to build the backstories and work on character development, which I really liked as it completely draws you into the world and the people inhabiting it.
Kate is a likeable and flawed character who I’m sure we can all relate too. With her future uncertain, she focuses on her job and helping her sister. The mystery surrounding the murders quickly draws her in due to both her personal connection and want to retain the life that she had before. What I liked as well about this novel is that you learn about the other characters not just through Kate, but they have their own points of view shown too.
The identity of the killer kept me guessing until towards the end when the storm closes in and everything starts to unravel in front of Kate’s eyes. The only thing I felt was that there could have been a bit more at the end as I was left feeling that Kate lacked some resolution.
Overall, Darkness Hides is a compelling and well-written mystery that I recommend to fans of the genre.