It’s always a dangerous game for publishers to attempt to compare a new offering with something as popular and stylized as True Detective, the hit TV series starring Colin Farrell. That’s a tough enough gig at any time but particular so for a debut novelist. In The Dark Inside, by Rod Reynolds, Charlie Yates is a disgraced New York reporter, banished by his vengeful boss to the do-nothing town of Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border to report on a spate of murders at a popular dating spot. So low has he fallen in his boss’s eyes that whatever story he files will probably only make it to the spike.
Charlie is burning with a mixture of righteous indignation and growing awareness of his predicament. But when another seemingly identical murder of two teenagers occurs he decides that this could prove to be his ticket back to the big time.
It’s 1946 and the area’s economy centres on a huge armament factory that is the largest employer. There’s also the palpable undercurrent between those who went to war, and those who didn’t. As Charlie starts digging, with the help of the beautiful sister of one of the victims, he finds that police and locals aren’t so keen on his growing critique of their work or the suggestions of a brash out-of-towner. As the body count continues to rise it is increasingly evident that there are powerful forces in the town manipulating the police and prepared to go to whatever lengths are necessary to protect their position. Soon Charlie realizes that he may have become the next victim.
Reynolds wrote The Dark Inside while he was studying on London City University’s two-year MA in crime writing. Loosely based on true events, he was clearly paying attention in class. This is a dark, brooding story playing out in a remote town ruled with a casual brutality where toeing the line is expected of each citizen. In Charlie Yates he’s created a character who, ultimately, has to make the choice between his own fears and doing the right thing. The reference to True Detective won’t do Rod Reynolds any harm. But in a way he doesn’t need it. This is a gripping book with a great sense of time. Hopefully we won’t have to wait two years for the next one.
The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds is published by Faber & Faber.