Larsen is a chameleon of popular fiction. "The Darkest Night" is the second novel in her Kaycee Miller mystery series, which debuted with the critically acclaimed, "At First Sight." Writing under several pseudonyms, Larsen's novels cross genres and appeal to a wide variety of readers. She has published the thrillers "Deadly Company," "Deadly Silence," "Deadly Rescue," and "Sisters and Secrets." She is also the author of "Render Safe" by Jackie Nida, and "The Passage" by Alex Lawrence.
In "The Darkest Night" Larsen once again brings Kaycee Miller, a psychologist who specializes in graphology (handwriting analysis) and the love of her life, Max Masterson together. Max is the human half of a certified Search and Rescue K-9 team.
Three people have vanished in our national parks for no apparent reason. Investigators are desperately searching for a connection between the victims. The question is asked: "Are they having a strange mystical experience inspired by a hot new bestseller or is something less spiritual, and much more sinister behind their untimely disappearances?" Max is called into the search for these victims and Kaycee is on hand to help him.
As the story opens, Evan Newsome finds himself alone in a forest. He has no clue where he is, how long he's been here, or why he has been left to die. Max and his SAR dog Stagga find Evan in the Carlsbad National Forest and bring him to safety. Evan clings to life although in a coma. The FBI and the SAR teams hope this sole survivor will be able to shed light on the mysterious case.
Before Evan regains consciousness in the hospital, the sister of Max's best friend disappears in the Rocky Mountain National Forest, the sinister trail takes a new twist.
The hunt is on to find Cal's sister who suffers from diabetes. Cal is the helicopter pilot on the SAR team and is fearless in the search for his sister.
As the SAR team is searching for Aubrey in the Estes Park area the story turns to Craig Sanderson. Sanderson knows where and why the victims were chosen. He has studied the methods of the emergency rescue teams for ten years. This character is a ghost from the past, a reminder of injustice, inhumanity, and incompetence. The reader sees at once that Sanderson is unhinged, a man on a mission that knows no mercy. He has one more victim to take and his plans are carefully laid out to kidnap her. His next victim? Kaycee Miller, of course.
When Kaycee is drugged, kidnapped and secreted away in the Ouachita National Forest near Mena, Arkansas the story hits a peak of intensity sure to shock even the calmest reader's nerves. Due to a progressive eye disease, Kaycee has minimal night vision which skyrockets her fear level.
The SAR teams from both Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana are brought into the search. The Ouachita National Forest is 65,000 acres of mountainous terrain that runs from east to west instead of the normal north to south. A nice bit of information for future reference.
Larsen lets her readers in on more than the protagonists can know. This creates tremendous tension and suspense. The author's research again astonishes. Her research on piloting a helicopter in treacherous mountains and weather conditions come to the fore in this story. Also how SAR teams work under the worst possible conditions, risking life and limb, to effect rescues will be procedures most readers have never read or experienced before.
There is even a twist in the plot that will astound readers. This crept in on tiny red herring clues so quiet you'll miss them if you aren't careful. I've said it before and say again here, you won't second guess Larsen. She's much too clever for that.
Once again, in Kaycee's disappearance, the presence of the book "Vis Medicatrix Naturae," comes into play. "Is the book discovered at each victim's home the only link to the murders, or is the truth buried deep in the wilderness on the darkest night many years ago?"
Copyright November 3, 2003 Patricia Ann Jones, all rights reserved