When Michael Rowland saves his younger brother Joshua from the clutches of his stepfather, he runs for his life with his brother in his arms. From his hiding place he sees the man who has made their lives a misery taken away in the trunk of a stranger’s car, never to be seen again.
Doctor Dani Novak has been keeping soccer coach Diesel Kennedy at arm’s length to protect him from her dark secrets. When they are brought together by the two young brothers who desperately need their help, it seems they might finally be able to leave their damaged pasts behind them.
But as the only witness to the man who kidnapped and murdered his stepfather, Michael is in danger. As Diesel and Dani do all that they can to protect him, their own investigation into the murder uncovers a much darker web of secrets than they could have imagined.
As more bodies start to appear it’s clear that this killer wants vengeance. And will wipe out anything that gets in his way…
Into the Dark is the fifth book in the Cincinnati series and probably the last as there is a definite sense Rose is wrapping up all the loose ends since she has moved on to Sacramento. Our last couple to get together are Dr. Dani Novak and Diesel Kennedy who have been skirting around each other for a few books now while everyone else pairs up around them.
When a deaf teenager, Michael Rowland, witnesses a crime and manages to escape with his younger brother, Joshua, he finds himself at Dani’s free clinic. Partially deaf herself and a foster carer, Dani is in a unique position to help the boys and is determined to keep them safe at all costs but that requires closer contact to Diesel Kennedy who already knows the boys. Aware of his feelings, Dani has been keeping Diesel at arms length but the boys feel safer with him around and so does she. When the killer uncovers Michael’s identity and the danger escalates, Dani has to rely on her extended network of family and friends to keep the boys safe while acknowledging her feelings for Diesel will not go away.
I’d grown to really like Dani over the preceding books and she has certainly had more than her fair share of trauma, however calling her secrets “dark” is a bit misleading. We already know Dani suffers from Waardenburg Syndrome, a rare genetic condition which causes some degree of congenital hearing loss and pigmentation deficiencies, such as white hair or different coloured eyes. Additionally, Dani became infected with HIV through the carelessness of her deceased fiancé although her viral load is undetectable. These are not the dark secrets mentioned though as they are more down to the guilt she feels over her fiancé’s death and certain decisions she made as a teenager. Dani is afraid of having a relationship with Diesel because she is convinced he will end up getting hurt.
Of course, Diesel has secrets of his own relating to the sexual abuse he suffered as a child which he hasn’t even revealed to his best friends although they have guessed due to the way he reacts whenever they get involved in exposing child abuse. While Diesel officially works for the newspaper run by the O’Bannion brothers, he is a hacker and primarily uses his skills to bring down criminals who have managed to circumvent the justice system. While Diesel and the O’Bannion brothers are often referred to as vigilantes by the police, their work ethic is completely different from our vigilante killer.
Cade Kaiser has taken a different path and is intent on ridding the world of traffickers and abusers but his careful plans start to unravel when he realises his latest kill was witnessed by the man’s stepson, Michael Rowland. In an attempt to cover his tracks, Cade is forced to cross the line into killing the innocent. As far as killers go, Cade is a disappointment because he is nowhere near chilling enough and I never felt he was a match for our heroes. As a victim of abuse himself, it would have been more interesting to me if he had been more conflicted over his actions instead of enjoying them so much. It would have also been interesting as a reader to have felt torn between sympathising or hating Cade but neither really happened.
Threaded through the main plot is another storyline to do with Grant Masterson, an accountant, who is trying to find his police officer brother who has gone off the grid. The Masterson brothers lost their sister, Laurel, a couple years ago and her disappearance is tied in with some traffickers who cross paths with Cade Kaiser. The journey Grant has to undertake to find out what happened to his brother is a complex one and the same trail of clues is eventually discovered by Dani and Diesel. It takes a while for the complete picture to come together but it still feels superfluous.
The story is wrapped up with Dani and Diesel getting their happy ever after which isn’t a spoiler as it is practically a requirement in Karen Rose novels. A few months have passed by the epilogue and we get an update on the other couples who graced the previous novels in the series. Needless to say, weddings and babies abound. These books need to be read in order for you to understand where and how the other characters fit but it was my least favourite of the Cincinnati series.