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Slipping Into Darkness    by Peter Blauner order for
Slipping Into Darkness
by Peter Blauner
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I stayed up much later than I should have, reading Slipping Into Darkness, as the need to read just one more page pulled me through this gripping novel. The story is told from two perspectives - those of NY Detective Francis X. Loughlin and Julian 'Hoolian' Vega, interrogated by Loughlin as a seventeen-year-old and sent to prison for twenty years for a murder he still claims he did not commit.

Blauner portrays well the culture shock and challenges that Vega faces in reintegrating with society, and his difficulty in suppressing bitterness and anger over lost opportunities and about how jail has changed him. He has been released on something of a technicality and faces the possibility of continuing a prison term of twenty-five years to life. The DA and police are pursuing the case, and at the same time, consider him a prime suspect in another killing similar to the first - once again of an ardent young pediatrician. New developments cause even Vega's passionate defense lawyer to doubt him, and the edgy relationship he begins to form with Zana, a young artist from Kosovo, and her small son is jeopardized.

Loughlin is keen to send Vega back to jail and emotionally very supportive of the original victim's family. Management and media are both on his case. His confidence takes a nosedive, however, when DNA tests show the same blood under the fingernails of both victims - it's not Vega's blood and, even more confusing, it's female. Could Hoolian actually be innocent? 'He pictured himself standing at the edge of a precipice, a howling icy crevice opening at his feet.' Loughlin is totally baffled and he's slipping into darkness in more ways than one - he acknowledges to the reader that he did something 'in the gray-zone' at the time of Vega's original arrest, and there's also a problem developing with his vision, about which he's in strong denial.

I enjoyed Slipping Into Darkness very much, much more than the author's previous The Last Good Day. Peter Blauner kept his options open and kept me guessing whodunit till very close to the ending, which was an entirely satisfying one and left me looking forward with anticipation to his next book.

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