‘Somewhere in the Dark’: A Slow Burn of a Mystery
Jesse Duval has it about as rough as you can. She works a low-paying job at a catering company, spent an entire year of her life locked in a closet and spent another year in jail. Why? For stalking her idol Shelly James, a famous Nashville musician, and cutting a fan at one of her shows with a knife.
But her luck might just turn.
James’s manager Robert Halloway told Jesse the James family was willing to bury the hatchet and take some pictures with her, showing the world that all is forgiven.
Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Shelly is suddenly murdered, and Jesse is now the prime suspect.
But perhaps Jesse’s obsession with Shelly and her family gives her an advantage that no one else has; she knows more about Shelly than possibly anyone else.
Will Jesse prove her innocence, or will she end up right back in a jail cell?
In Somewhere in the Dark, R.J. Jacobs does an outstanding job of helping the reader empathize with a character that would ordinarily be extremely difficult for the average person to relate to and understand.
Most people don’t relate much to stalkers with a violent background, but Jacobs thoroughly explains the reason behind the obsession. Jesse is a victim of neglect, spending a year of her childhood locked in a dark closet, with only a Shelly James CD as entertainment. When she got out of the closet, all she knew was Shelly James, leading to her obsession.
So why did she cut the fan at the Shelly James concert? She was overstimulated. When the lights went out, there was a lot of activity happening in the dark. The fan grabbed her shoulder and she panicked, cutting him with her knife. Jesse often speaks about the positive elements of the closet, like how safe and predictable it was. So it makes sense she would have an episode when she was placed back in the dark, but in an unpredictable environment.
Jacobs illustrates what made Jesse before he delves into her disturbing past and obsession with the James family, helping the reader to perceive Jesse as a victim of abuse instead of a creepy stalker.
In turn, this makes the otherwise unnerving premise of Jesse using her intimate knowledge of the James family to solve Shelly’s murder exciting and entertaining.
However, Somewhere in the Dark‘s pacing is slow, and Jacobs struggles to keep the story moving. There are many interactions, especially with Jesse’s coworkers at the catering company, that feel lifeless and dull. She often goes on long monologues that add little to her character or the rest of the story as a whole.
But all the exciting twists and turns make the wait worth it.
Overall, Somewhere in the Dark is a fantastic read for those who have the patience for it and love a good mystery.
Somewhere in the Dark is one of our Fall/Winter Reads for 2020. See the full list here.