Review: “The River Is Dark”, Joe Hart

Pros: Great plot
Cons: Some stereotypes
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Joe Hart’s The River Is Dark (A Liam Dempsey Thriller) definitely makes me want to read more of his work. In this volume, Liam Dempsey, who used to be a police officer, returns to his home town. His brother Allan, a doctor, is dead along with Allan’s wife Suzie; they were killed by a vicious intruder. Two weeks earlier another couple was killed very similarly and their son Eric lost his arm to the killer. Liam is trying to find the killer without running afoul of local law enforcement, but luckily the sheriff knows he could use the help and is slipping him copies of reports on the sly. Liam teams up with Dani, someone he has a history with, and the two of them try to figure out what on earth the killer really wants.


There are some interesting characters in here. Allan seems to have been a stone-cold asshole, but he had friends and a wonderful, kind wife, so the implication is that he must have not have been completely terrible. I like Liam–he’s a bit hard and bitter, but Dani makes him smile again, and he has his weaknesses. Dani felt a bit flimsy and somewhat defined by Joe and his issues. There’s at least one total stereotypical bad guy. There’s another character who never grows past his stereotype, but I don’t want to give his issues away. The mayor is also a one-note bad guy. Hart doesn’t seem to have a handle on giving bad guys dimension.

Liam has some genuinely funny lines. Since I just finished reading a book that had much less good humor than it thought it did, I can appreciate that. There’s at least one injury he really should have gone to the hospital over. Of course it doesn’t take many pages before it seems to be swept away as a real problem.

There are a few awkward or absurd images:

He laid her gently on the bed and covered her with himself, a blanket of flesh …

Eeewwwww! Not the sexy or romantic image the author seemed to be going for. Not even a little bit. I read it to my husband, who at first thought it was a legitimate quote from a horror novel because it was so creepy/gross. On a different note, there are also some awkward transitions into Liam’s dreams.

The pacing is wonderful, and the book definitely gained in tension as it went along. Despite some small issues, it’s a good thriller.

The river is dark, and the night isn’t something to swim in.

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