Dark Road Home by Angela Bennett is a mystery crime novel that follows Belle McBain as she solves a mystery from her past that she’s been trying to outrun for almost a decade. After overcoming years of self-destructive behavior and drug addiction Belle has finally gotten her life together and opened a private investigation firm with her best friend, Oz.
If I’ve learned anything from this story it’s that running a successful private investigation business involves around 2% Hollywood hacking skills, 3% hefty trust fund, and 95% gut feeling which you must trust above all else. In fact, everyone in this story seems to have an overly trusting relationship with their gut, including FBI agents and cops. I know that this is a trope of both mystery and crime genres but overusing tropes often detract from the quality of a story.
Another questionable aspect of the story is that Belle’s investigative success doesn’t seem to stem from logical thinking or common sense so much as pure luck. The most in-your-face example being that her taxi driver just happens to be a retired cop who decided to go out of his way to help her. He almost dies for her at one point despite knowing her for less than 48 hours. The only way to explain this plethora of investigative luck is that she was somehow blessed by a mystery-solving leprechaun.
Campiness aside, the characters in this story are interesting and enjoyable. Belle is a stubborn woman with a “morbid curiosity problem” which makes it fun to follow her around as she pursues leads. Despite being sober for a few years her problems with drug addiction are still a part of her. This serious topic was handled rather well and I’m glad to see a competent main character with flaws and struggles.
Her best friend Oz is a hacking genius, super hot, and a paraplegic, and there are also a few LGBTQ+ characters. The author handled the large cast well, and was able to shine a light on the diversity without taking away from the main plot of solving the mystery.
Unfortunately there is a completely unnecessary love triangle which seems tacked on just to check the box of ‘romantic drama’. Belle’s boyfriend seems to only exist to cause romantic tension, and doesn’t contribute to the story at all. I’m a sucker for a romantic triangle but can’t stand lazy writing.
One of the major pitfalls of the book was the main villain. He psychopathic murderer that ran a contract killing organization. Sounds like a pretty good villain. However, the main villain (and other unsavory characters) are never really shown as being very evil, everyone, including themselves, just says they are. From what I could tell they were just unlawful mercenaries, but everyone talked about them like they ate babies as they flayed people alive. He really just came off as a emotionally detached killer-for-hire that occasionally made bad murder puns.
In the story’s climax, in the middle of Florida’s everglades, the villain even goes so far as to go into the stereotypical Bond-villain monologue to explain the who, what, when, where, how, and why of all his evil plans. A few pages into his speech I was half expecting him to pull a lever to reveal an alligator pit.
Overall the story was enjoyable despite a few problems with pacing, overuse of exposition, and some cheesiness. If you like a diverse cast and crime solved by rich hot people who won’t rest until they see justice then this might be the book for you.
By Angela Bennett
Victor Simone, head of a hit man organization, murdered Belle McBain’s corrupt father. Following in her dad’s career footsteps, Belle becomes an attorney, but she can’t seem to move beyond the whispers of her crooked father’s corruption or his failures to his family. Instead of building a career in law, she escapes to a life of drugs and lives off her trust fund.
Unable to cope, Belle attempts suicide and is soon admitted into a rehab clinic where she tries to heal. However, her wounds run deep, so the healing takes time. Once released and three years sober, Belle begins a new life as a private investigator in Jersey City with the help of a friend in law enforcement. Sixteen years have passed … until everything changes.
One of Victor Simone’s cronies is in FBI custody and makes a deal. He says he’ll tell where the fugitive Simone is hiding if Belle agrees to meet with him. When she does, she begins to wonder if her father was ever a dirty attorney at all. As she searches for answers, Belle discovers more than she bargained for, including something more unbelievable than she could have imagined.