Bridget Collins’ second book reminded me a little of Tim Bowler. Or rather, of his books. It’s got a modern setting, with something inexplicable happening. Some teenage angst and the supernatural.
I know you can’t really explain the supernatural, but I wouldn’t have minded understanding A Trick of the Dark a little better. I was left with questions. Had the story ended differently I would have been prepared to read a more ordinary meaning into what happened.
It’s almost purely about teen brother and sister Zach and Annis, and after a while I found myself longing for more characters. Their inadequate parents are there to begin with, but even for fictional purposes I found them wanting. There are a few very minor characters at first, who then just disappear. There is a neighbour/friend at the end, and by then I was desperate for people, so he was most welcome.
This is a dysfunctional family, but mainly on a superficial level. Something odd happens to Zach, witnessed by Annis. The rest of the plot is about what follows this event, and we never really understand it. At least, I didn’t. Both teenagers fall out with the parents big time, as they struggle to grasp what’s going on.
The struggle to grasp uses up an unnecessary middle third of the book. I felt that with so much detail, surely something useful would come of it. Bridget’s first novel, The Traitor Game, was exceptionally good, with some interesting and likeable characters, and quite a lot of action on several levels. That’s why this sudden change in A Trick of the Dark really puzzled me.
Zach looks very promising initially, but his ranting throughout made me lose patience with him. Annis is desperate to please her older brother, although that’s almost impossible. And as for the parents, they are barely normal, even for fiction. So I’m left hanging.