One Dark, Two Light

Written by Ruth Mancini

Review written by Carole Tyrell

Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.

One Dark, Two Light
Head of Zeus
RRP: £18.99
Released: March 5 2020

It’s New Year’s Eve in a dodgy inner London boozer, The Hope and Glory, and one regular has had enough.  He leaves as the countdown begins but it’s the last one, he’ll ever hear.  Someone runs up from behind and attacks him with an iron bar; as he stumbles a 4 x 4 runs him down. Someone definitely wants him dead.

Sarah Kellerman has a complicated lifestyle.  She’s in court with her 15-year-old client, Jerome and his mum Georgina as he’s given a final chance after being accused of stealing cars.  Meanwhile her ex-Andy has returned from Australia and wants her and their young son Ben to be a happy family again. But Andy left them as he couldn’t cope with Ben’s autism and learning difficulties – has he really changed?  She’s also concerned about her new boyfriend, Will, who seems to have done a vanishing act.   Is he just not interested?

When a call from a local hospital reveals Will’s whereabouts Sarah immediately goes to visit him.  But, as she’s leaving, Sarah is aghast to see a man she recognises lying in bed trying to remove a tube from his throat. As the nurse deals with it, Sara tells her of his identity.  He’s been lying there for 3 months since New Year’s Eve and, with no identification and no-one coming forward, he has remained unknown.  

He’s Mark Felding, an ex-policeman, who was suspended from the force after drugs were found in his locker and became estranged from his wife, Karen, and their two children.  But then Sarah discovers that Mark was part of an undercover operation involving drugs and the Hope and Glory and had started to cause problems. This doesn’t sound like the Mark that Sarah knew and she starts to do her own investigating despite being warned off. But who would want to kill him – the drug dealers that he was chasing, Karen, his colleagues and why has the only witness never been contacted by the police?

Things just don’t add up.  A witness with footage of the hit and run has never been contacted by the police, the 4 x 4 involved may have links to the police and Mark’s initial attacker may have come from close to home.

However, it’s Jerome who’s arrested for the attempted murder of a policeman after Mark’s wallet is found in his bedroom.  Understandably, Georgina is distraught.  In the middle of this Sarah visits the Hope and Glory and ends up buying heroin and crack cocaine, the one dark, two light of the title.  As she sits at a table surrounded by regulars who assume she’s another druggie a stranger suddenly shouts at her and seems to know her. He then pulls her outside and Sarah is bundled into a waiting car…has she gone too far?

This is a cracking, very well plotted, gripping thriller and really races along.  Ruth Mancini uses her legal background well especially when Sarah describes being a solicitor ‘as being a bit like a prostitute. You’re allowed to do it but you’re not allowed to tout for business.’  I could sense Sarah’s frustration with Jerome’s home situation and the temptations that were in his life.  The novel has an inner London setting with rundown council estates cheek by jowl with posh, expensive houses and pubs that sell more than beer. This could be a cliché but the author’s deft handling of it means that it becomes an integral part of the plot. I liked Sarah even if she did seem a little foolhardy in visiting the Hope and Glory alone.  The challenges of having a severely disabled child were well portrayed and were also a key plot element of Ruth Mancini’s previous novel, In the Blood, which featured Sarah.  She was a sympathetic yet feisty character with a lot on her plate but also a steely determination to see justice done. 

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