Then Came Darkness: Gritty, Real, Fiction
So, I confess, I purchased Then Came Darkness purely based on its book cover. I loved it. The simplicity of the dark background, the single light, juxtaposed against the title—it’s all well designed. So I bought it on first look.
Now, for the story itself? Solid. It’s historical fiction, but not the sort of historical fiction many readers might expect. It’s not a book that explores a significant event in history from a new perspective. Rather, Schleicher thrusts readers deep into the early part of the twentieth century, with real people living real lives and experiencing a thrilling, suspenseful tale.
The story follows a whole swath of characters as conflict converges upon them, hopping between different points in their lives. Joshua Bloomfield seeks treasure and vengeance he believes is rightfully his. Evelyn wants to live out her life in peace with her children. Samuel just doesn’t know what he wants. Sally and Tyrus want to see their mother safe, and a better future than what they have now. And more.
Then Came Darkness is certainly well researched. From little details about the nature of baseball in those decades to the language to which movies are at the theater, Schleicher did his homework. You feel as if you’re in this world alongside the characters, and the characters . . . they’re wonderful, and terrible, and special in each of their own ways.
And Schleicher plays with non-linear story telling, which is hard to do! I’m not sure if he executed perfectly, but it may be one of those books that requires a re-reading to note all the foreshadowing occurring throughout the tale. However, at times the writing, point of view, and time jumps confused an otherwise intriguing and gripping narrative.
Yet, even with those subtle flaws, I read the second half of the book over the span of two days, so it didn’t slow me down in the slightest.
Onto the scores!
Writing: 6/10. I must give it my average writing score, because nothing about the writing itself stood out to me as special, and the point of view and non-linear organization of the novel was sometimes hard to follow. Creative use of punctuation and dialogue juxtaposed against these choices I see as potential lows provide the average 6.
Characters: 9/10. Joshua. Samuel. Evelyn. Tyrus. Sue. Sally. Doc Long. Doris and her husband the sherriff. Myra. I’m listing these character names off the top of my head because I remember them all. And even the ones whose names I can’t recall, I remember the role they played in the story. With only 250 pages, to create so many memorable characters is a difficult task, and Schleicher pulled it off superbly.
Plot: 8/10. It’s a good plot. There’s nothing especially original about it (the rising conflict and relationships between characters reminded me of one of the classics I read in high school, but this time, I was reading it for pleasure!), but it’s good. It’s executed well, and the slow build of the tension culminates in a gripping and unexpected ending.
Setting: 8/10. You can tell, throughout the book, Schleicher did his research and understood the world of the 1910s and 1920s. It’s authentic, and it grounds the book in truth.
Overall: 7.75/10. A solid four star rating. Well done, D. H. Schleicher!