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Good Morning, Darkness    by Ruth Francisco order for
Good Morning, Darkness
by Ruth Francisco
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

A Mexican fisherman (no name assigned) makes a grim discovery at Venice Beach in Los Angeles - a severed arm, with a ring on one finger, and a white rose floating beside it. A short time later he finds another arm in Malibu. The fisherman believes the body parts belong to a woman, whom the fisherman viewed each morning standing in a window of a home at the beach. Sultry and beautiful, Laura Finnegan changed each life that intersected with hers ...

Handsome to-the-hilt, Laura's successful realtor boyfriend, Scott Goodsell, wants to marry her. Based on a nightmare in which Scott kills her, Laura breaks off their relationship. The scorned Scott is beyond perturbed - he's mad (literally) and plans to get even. He stalks and harasses Laura. Her martial arts instructor, Detective Sergeant Reggie Brooks of the LA Police Department, is in love with Laura. Reggie helps Laura to obtain a restraining order against Scott. He unofficially investigates after she misses classes. The detective's involvement strains his already stressed relationship with his wife and children (Father John significantly advises Reggie, 'Whatever aspect of the soul we neglect will become the source of pain.') Further complications in Laura's life include her sexually-harassing, boorish boss and an accountant, both spellbound by her.

Other clues to what happened to Laura are a letter of resignation to her boss, and a claim that she has traveled East to tend her ailing mother (just one thing wrong - her parents died long before!) Laura's friend, striking, New York art connoisseur Vivian Costanza, has not heard from Laura for some time. She questions Scott (whom she dislikes intensely). He creates even more stories. Vivian threatens to travel to LA to expose Scott as the low-life he is, and to file a missing person report. Scott's family is involved - his mother Beatrice Goodsell is suspicious of her son, and Scott uses his sisters to forge credit card charges and mail post cards from abroad. An antique ring is also significant to the story. Scott claims that he has proposed to ex-girlfriend Connie Philips, who reluctantly agrees to go along with the engagement ruse. He claims that the ring is being cleaned and sized.

Readers learn from the outset that Scott has committed crimes including murder, but did he kill Laura? The author's technique of spotlighting various cast members (who describe themselves, their thoughts and plans) is effective. Ruth Francisco delivers a finely-tuned thriller, with many suspects, ongoing suspense and surprises all the way through. She finishes with an open-ended Epilogue - an unbelievable, astounding ending ... surprise! Good Morning, Darkness is good reading for mystery lovers.

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