Goodreads Summary of Here In The Dark (narrated by Tony Award-Winning Actress Larua Benanti) By Alexis Soloski (Review Below):
A dark and stylish novel of psychological suspense about a young theater critic drawn into a dangerous game that blurs the lines between reality and performance.
Vivian Parry likes the dark. A former actress, she now works as the junior theater critic at a major Manhattan magazine. Her nights are spent in a reserved seat beyond the lights, giving herself over to the shows she loves. By day, she savages them with words sharper than a knife.
Angling for a promotion, she reluctantly agrees to an interview, a conversation that reveals secrets she thought she had long since buried. Then her interviewer disappears, and she learns―from his devastated fiancée―that she was the last person to have seen him alive. When the police refuse to investigate, Vivian does what she promised herself she would never do again: she plays a part. Assuming the role of amateur detective, she turns her critical gaze toward an unsanitary private eye, a sketchy internet startup, a threatening financier, fake blood, and one very real corpse. As she nears the final act, she finds that the boundaries between theater and the real world are more tenuous and more dangerous than even she could have believed. . .
Gripping, propulsive, and shot through with menace and dark glamor, Alexis Soloski’s Here in the Dark takes us behind the scenes of New York theater, lifting the curtain on the lies we tell ourselves and each other.
First of all, like my review, the summary of Here In The Dark doesn’t do it justice at all. You will notice that for only the second time ever, I am pulling quotes in a graphic (the first was The September House by Carissa Orlando, linked) because Alexis Soloski is a mastermind. Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, she writes for the New York Times. Come to think of it, if there is any chance Alexis Soloski reads this review, I would be embarrassed. I’m sure, as a critic, she would pan it. 😂
Having said that, I will do my very best to provide the review Here In The Dark deserves. I couldn’t untangle the brilliance into five distinct parts if you are wondering why it isn’t a “five reasons to read” post. So, bear with me.
Thank you to FlatIron Books and Macmillan Audio for the advance copy of Here In The Dark By Alexis Soloski, which releases on December 5th.
Let’s start with our protagonist, Vivian. Here in the Dark centers around Vivian. There is a supporting cast that I will discuss, but this is Vivian’s book. And being in Vivian’s head shouldn’t be enjoyable. It should be disturbing. Yet, somehow, it is entertaining to watch her say the quiet parts aloud, with no fuck bucks to give.
Vivian isn’t just morally grey; she is outright insufferable. It is a testament to Alexis Soloski’s execution of the protagonist that you want to root for her despite how unbearable she can be. You want more for and from her.
This is coming from someone who has been declared disabled by the Federal Government for a list of mental adventures as long as my arm. Now, not everyone is the same. My experience might be different from yours. Mine is different (with some overlap) than Vivian’s. Nevertheless, it is utterly relatable in all its ugliness and beauty.
Because of my own experience, I am usually taken back, appalled even, at the treatment of mental Illness in books. Very few authors get it right. Whether I like it or not, Alexis Soloski nails it. Mental Illness isn’t glossed over, made sweet or mysterious. It puts the brutal in brutal honesty. Some of my experiences might not mimic that of Vivian’s, but I know plenty of people who suffer just the same as her.
Here in the Dark Quote- Alexis Soloski
There are the psychiatrist sessions when you fake it just to get through a psychiatrist appointment (because God, just give me my medication and let me out of here- I don’t want to deal, today). Then there is the self-medicating through drugs and alcohol (much of my family’s m.o., but mine is food). And Vivian’s utter self-hatred is demonstrated through her sexual proclivities (not me, but oh so many) and cynicism toward any man who shows her worth.
Through all of it, Vivian is real and tangible in a way few characters are. And through it all is a razor edge, self-depreciation, yet crafty sense of humor, even in the light of discovering a dead body.
Here in the Dark’s macabre humor is superlatively biting (as you see from the pulled quotes). Much of this humor surrounds Vivian. However, the supporting cast is not left out to dry. For instance, David’s (David who is missing) fiancee pulls out a stunner.
Because when your fiancee has gone missing, you always sob about cake.
Then there is the inept private investigator who manages to step on every social norm while actively trying not to. The dynamic between Vivian and the private investigator also exhibits Alexis Soloski’s attention to detail. Every nuance, character, and interaction, no matter how big or small, is meticulously written.
Life fact. Mention your period to any man, and it will stop a conversation with a quickness.
The mystery. Ah, but of course. After all, Here in the Dark is a thriller, a mystery. And if for one second I’ve given you the impression that all of the above trumps the mystery? Think again. It does not. Yes, I would say that Here in the Dark is more character-driven than plot-driven. Even so, it never loses touch with the suspense. Multiple mysteries are running around the plot, and I promise you, PROMISE YOU, you will never see the answers coming.
I can’t even say there are a lot of red herrings, or maybe there are. I’m not spoiling this one. But that is just it. I don’t even know if I could spoil Here in the Dark. I’m not sure it is possible because the structure is beyond anything I’ve read before. It is unique and intricate. At once, without red herrings, and yet they are everywhere. Do you see what I mean? Maybe not, but damn, I’m trying to get this across without spoilers.
In the end, you never can tell. Until Alexis Soloski starts peeling back the onion layers, you won’t see the truth of it all. There is a big picture of many details. And if you can you figure it out? You are much more apt than I am.
The last piece of this is definitely not the least of it. Do not read Here in the Dark. LISTEN TO IT (I’ve used a lot of that dramatic type in this review, but I have no choice). Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti narrates Here in the Dark, and I imagine was a big coo for Macmillan. And hell. Can she narrate every audiobook I ever listen to again? It is obvious to talk about the different voices, the dark humor, the suspense, and the thrills she nails. Whatever Macmillan had to do to get Laura Benanti to narrate Here in the Dark? DO IT AGAIN!
I mean, Laura Benanti has won a Tony, doesn’t that say it all? Honestly, it doesn’t. I don’t have syllables to put together what should be said. But Laura Benanti is a powerhouse, masterful and intentional with every intonation and cadence. Bless this queen. Bless both of these queens, writer, and narrator.