'Promise' reviewed by New York Journal of Books

by Sam Miller

“Edgy and stylistically taut from beginning to end, Promise delivers a compelling and richly developed story. It is the kind of book that knowledgeable fans of the genre will love and appreciate.”

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim’s families that he will find the answers they need, and it’s taken its toll. 

After surviving a gunshot wound to the head he calls it quits and retires to the Sunshine Coast in an attempt to leave the demons behind. But he should have realized there are demons everywhere—no place is safe. 

A serial killer is prowling the Sunshine Coast area. Darian tries to ignore the fact his experience could make a difference hunting him down. All he wants is to sit at the end of his jetty on the Noosa River and ignore the fact that girls from the area have vanished over the past 14 months. All blonde and pretty. Youngest: 13. Oldest: 16. 

He knows they are all dead, but the cops insist they are missing or vanished. That’s what you have to say if you don t have a body. 

Jenny Brown was the first. She vanished sometime after 4:00 in the afternoon, Saturday, October 15 of the previous year. Except for her parents, her friends, and everybody who knew her, it was presumed she was just a runaway—specially by the cops who allowed a good two or three minutes before arriving at that conclusion. 

By the time they’d reached the gate to the front yard of her house, before they’d even walked across the road and climbed into their cruiser, they would’ve forgotten Jenny Brown even existed. 

But when others started disappearing, the cops could not insist they were all runaways. Despite his intention to semi-retire, Darian cannot sit idly by. He decides he is going to find the killer and deal with him—his way.

Darian Richards is a troubled man, heavy shouldered with guilt. He reflects on many things, but more so on speaking to one of the girls’ mother, trying to give her hope where none exists: 

“You promise?” I heard her voice echo, as I climbed into my car and closed the door. I started the engine, revved the accelerator. It was old, imported from America with left hand drive.
We’d been chasing the perp for about three years. It was always the same. A girl boards a train. Vanishes. A week later she’s released into a multi-storey car park, wandering, drugged, dazed, unsure is she’s alive; more likely she thinks she’s dead, in an enclosed world of concrete spirals and parked cars. Always dressed in the clothes of his previous victim, ripped, shredded, now tattered, rags held together so loosely they flutter to the ground, leaving her naked by the time she’s found. She’s been living living in a collapse of darkness and time. He said nothing to her. He raped her repeatedly, endlessly. Then she awakes, a week later, among parked cars. It’s not the same world that it was a week ago.vHe’d stolen his ninth, Lorna, when I heard the question asked by her mother, Diane, as I was standing in the kitchen of their home, out of the way of my crew as they searched for any trail that might link the victim’s stable world to his prowling one.
Diane knew how he worked. Everybody knew. Newspapers, television, radio reports were full of breathless speculation. He may as well have had his own blog. He was lord of the city and all its homes.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” she asked in a voice only just controlling the terror. She was strong. She’d stay with us until her girl was returned. Most parents don’t. They freeze and turn inwards, their lives already ruined.

“Yeah, it is,” I replied.

“Then he will release her, won’t he? Like the others, in about a week?”

I turned to her as she asked another question: “She’ll come back to me, won’t she?”
“If it’s him,” I said, “and we have every reason to believe it is him, then yes, Lorna will" 
I knew I’d already said too much.

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Rachael McGuirk