With a title courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe, short-story author Alice Blanchard debuts a suspense thriller – DARKNESS PEERING. The plot spans eighteen years and takes place in the small town of Flowering Dog, Maine, a most unlikely place for murder.
Melissa D’Agostino, a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, is strangled on her way home from school and left at the muddy edge of a pond. There are several teenage suspects, including Billy, the son of the Police Chief Nalen Storrow, who brought his family to Flowering Dog to get away from big city violence. After a little investigation, Storrow believes Billy may have committed the crime and so he kills himself, leaving behind his wife, son, and 9-year-old daughter, Rachel. The murderer, however, is never found.
Eighteen years later, Rachel has become a police officer, while Billy works as a teacher’s aide with Claire Castillo at a school for the blind and disabled. He has, in fact, fallen in love with her but has not actually made it known. Rachel reviews the D’Agostino murder and discovers that her brother might have been a suspect. She has decided to reopen the cold case and all its implications, when Claire disappears one night.
After a couple days with no clues, Claire’s sister Nicole and Nicole’s boyfriend suddenly disappear, as well. When Claire manages to crawl from the woods in a horrifying condition, she is discovered by another suspect from long ago. She is rushed to the ER, where her father, Dr. Castillo makes a misdiagnosis and she dies…
The whole time I was reading this book I had to keep reminding myself that it was taking place in Maine, which I have always thought of as far away, cold, beautiful, and peaceful. Turns out, it’s just like anyplace else with good and bad people, right and wrong actions.