Book review: When All Light Fails

When All Light Fails

When All Light Fails,
(Ryan DeMarco Mystery #5)
by Randall Silvis
Poisoned Pen Press
400 pages


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The very last pages of No Woods So Dark as These (Ryan DeMarco Mystery #4) were quite shocking with what happened then to Ryan.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet read volume 4 and are planning to, maybe it’s not the best time to read my review of When All Light Fails. Because of the topic, there’s no way I can go around it.

So in the last scene of volume 4, it really looks like Ryan is killed. This is recapitulated in the Prologue of this 5th and very last volume, When All Light Fails.
It was very close, so close that he actually had a Near-Death Experience.

Silvis deals with this topic throughout the book, as the experience totally changes Ryan’s outlook on life and people.
As Ryan and Jayme try to heal after their last horrendous ordeal, Judge Morrison gives them an assignment. They accept it, as it seems safe enough: it’s just about identifying the biological father of Emma, 9. But “Appearances can be deceiving”, and dangerous, as our team will soon figure out!

Thanks to the NDE angle, the book is full of powerful passages related to forgiveness and wisdom. But obviously, this is still a thriller, and there are plenty of suspenseful scenes and very tough moments for several major characters. No, I will not give you more spoilers!

Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are.
Part I title

When I reviewed No Woods So Dark as These, I highlighted that “Randall Silvis is great at mixing crime and metaphysics”. He definitely goes a step further here with all the content related to NDE. So he manages the feat of going very deep with this perspective, and very far and fast with the main points of the plot. This is not a usual combination in thrillers.

When two people commit to loving each other and to living together in a loving relationship, they are committing not only to sharing their daily rewards and joys but also to working toward ensuring the other’s joys and rewards; to not only sharing their daily sorrows and pains and travails but to working to ameliorate the other’s; and to not only sharing their dreams and their necessary struggles but to struggling hand in hand to help the other’s dreams come true. It was a commitment to doubling one’s own problems in exchange for increasing one’s happiness.
Chapter 36

He was a miracle, there were no two ways about it. It was all a miracle and he was a part of it. A mystery. An unsolvable, frustrating, aggravating, maddening, exhilarating and eternal mystery.
Chapter 100

And as usual, you will find great images, like this one:

There was the pain that bit like a rattlesnake into her leg and sent its hot poison cursing up into her skull
Chapter 1

I also enjoyed the pace of the novel, with very short chapters.

It’s a bit sad to know I will no longer read about Ryan and Jayme’s investigations, but it’s also nice to let them go and experience a new and different life.

Each chapter begins with a short sentence in lieu of title. I think this is something new for this series, and in most cases, it didn’t really work for me. I found it unnecessary, and even confusing at times.
The book comes with a Reading Group Guide.

In case you wonder, the title comes from a line in Faulkner’s Light in August. The beginning of its synopsis is actually a good description of Silvis’s book: “Light in August, a novel that contrasts stark tragedy with hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, which features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father….”

VERDICT: Powerful concluding volume of this series. Leave it to Randall Silvis to tackle a deep topic while building a suspenseful and very satisfying plot.

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Or any other great novel with the theme of NDE?

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook free of charge through Netgalley, for review. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.





3 thoughts on “Book review: When All Light Fails

  1. Pingback: 2021: July wrap-up | Words And Peace

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