Atlanta Sets the Stage for Murder in Tina Whittle’s ‘Darker Than Any Shadow’

Georgia author Tina Whittle visits the world of competitive performance poetry in “Darker Than Any Shadow,” sequel to her earlier “The Dangerous Edge of Things.” This edgy mystery combines vivid characters and elegant word play for a satisfying romp in Atlanta.

Gun-shop owner Tai Randolph has deepened her relationship with former police officer Trey Seaver. She’s learning to deal with the personality quirks that dog him since a near-fatal automobile damaged resulted in brain damage. He’s learning to survive her impetuosity.

Tai’s best friend Rico Worthington has earned a spot on Atlanta’s Spoken Word Poetry Team, just in time for a major competition. Rico requests Trey’s assistance without telling Tai what’s going on, when a displaced team member threatens a violent return and his replacement indicates that he will fight for the position.

This is a murder mystery, so you can depend upon murder and mayhem. What sets the book apart is Whittle’s deft handling of the words describing the events. Take a look at this description of Rico in a sub par performance on stage: “Rico was usually the crown prince of smooth, pure butter, but tonight he jangled.”

During an interrogation, Tai urges herself to exercise restraint as she mentally compares herself to “a dirty blond bulldozer, piling mounds of earth all over the information I was seeking, and sometimes over the person I was seeking it from.”

The best murder mysteries unravel a complex set of circumstances to reveal a perfectly logical villain. Poor mysteries get tangled in the threads instead of straightening them. Whittle shows herself to be a deft plotter with outstanding unraveling skills. She maintains tension, with appropriate moments of relief. There’s nothing cozy about “Darker Than Any Shadow,” it’s edgy all the way.

Notwithstanding the female protagonist, both male and female readers will enjoy the strong story, deep characterizations and inside look at competitive performance poetry, a world not often used in mainstream fiction. If you enjoy a good mystery, don’t miss “Darker Than Any Shadow” by Tina Whittle.

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