The Darkest Place by Jo Spain
Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.
But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.
As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .
I am a huge fan of Jo Spain and the Tom Reynolds series. The Darkest Place is #4 in the series and by far the BEST so far! It can be read as a standalone; and will still be thoroughly enjoyed for its atmospheric location and dark themes of mental health treatment in the 1970s.
“Forty Years was too long to wait for somebody to come back from the dead”
The novel surrounds a cold case from 40yrs ago. The disappearance of a Doctor at St Christina’s, psychiatric institution on the Island of Oilean Na Caille. His wife Miriam Howe has waited every year with hope, time has literally stood still for this woman. When she receives a phone call from that a body has been discovered and, she may finally lay Conrad to rest.
The novel details the daily life at St Christina’s asylum in 1972. How the patients were often treated as inmates with little or no compassion or humanity. I felt the author had excelled herself with her detailed research into historical mental health abuses and The Darkest Place is as close to accurate as you are going to get!
‘Ireland had the highest number of people lost to asylums per capita, in the entire world’
DCI Tom Reynolds receives the information on Christmas day of the body discovered at the grounds of the asylum. The case then quickly becomes his personal obsession and he pushes family duty aside in the name of justice.
With no DNA match identified and the discovery of a doctor’s diary the case becomes more complex and heavily layered in mental health treatments a stigma.
‘Do not be lured into feeling sympathy for our patients’ – Diary entry
‘How terrifying this place must seem to the vulnerable people who arrive here involuntary’ – Diary entry
A cause of death is identified, and it points to murder. Then a mass grave is discovered, and it blows the case wide open!!!!!
What really happened at St Christina’s all those years ago?
‘Sometimes the patients can get manic’
When you discover some of the mental health crimes/conditions/sins such as homosexuality. You begin to realise how many of societies most vulnerable were systemically and inhumanely incarcerated and experimented upon. . .
‘You would never believe, in the outside world, how little it takes to cross the threshold from there to here’
The novel fully illustrates the bleak and unhappy life that occurred at the asylum. Prison like conditions and staff that pleasure in the discomfort of patients.
Then you discover the basement patients, were the worst cases were held. . .
There is an amazing twist at the end. But this novel really has it all, superb storytelling, deeply layered plot and terrifying accuracy. 5*
***The Darkest Place is released tomorrow in Ebook format***