A dual narrative split between characters separated by a couple of centuries is not something to recommend to a debut novelist, but Nick Lake pulls it off with aplomb in this story of the benighted island of Haiti.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, teenager Shorty recounts his violent history - how, seven years earlier, his father was murdered by one of the lawless island’s gangs and his twin sister stolen from him, and how he himself was drawn into the world of guns and drug-dealing. Interspersed with his account is the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the man who led a slave revolt that evicted Haiti’s French rulers at the end of the 18th century and defied the power of Napoleon.
Drawing on voodoo, the island’s religious death cult, Lake establishes a mystical connection between his two characters. The book starts slowly, but as the two narrative threads become more and more intertwined, with the author switching effortlessly from one to the other, it gathers pace, becoming finally unputdownable, with both strands racing towards violent and shocking endings.
In Darkness is both a searing indictment of man’s inhumanity to man and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.