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In Jon Evans' Dark Places, modern vagabond Paul Wood leaves the comforts of San Francisco to spend months backpacking through some of the world's most challenging terrain. While hiking in the Himalayas, Paul gets more than he bargained for when he finds the body of a murdered hiker with Swiss army knives embedded in both his eyes. The police in Nepal, anxious to quell a scandal, close the case and declare the death a suicide. Paul reaches out to his far-flung tribe of fellow backpackers for help and his discoveries lead him to a terrible conclusion: a killer is stalking the international backpacker trail. Finding the murderer becomes an obsession that leads Paul from the Himalayan peaks through the jungles of Indonesia, across the bleak Sahara desert and into some of the darkest places imaginable.

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Roger Adkin
Intelligence Officer
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Rita Feutl
Journalist and Novelist
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I had a difficult time getting started on Dark Places, but I enjoyed the book. What scares me about its overall idea is how easily people could be murdered in a third world country, and there would be no law enforcement there to investigate.

There was one scene that played out in a way that I wasn't expecting at all. When they found the Canadian backpacker, I thought that Paul Wood would have reacted in sheer and utter terror because that was the second murder like that that he had come across, and the first one he was in a personal relationship with. He should have been freaking out and it was casual. I would have been running away, or standing there screaming. I would have been Mr. Chicken.

The problem with murder in third world countries, is that international agencies have no jurisdiction or authority to investigate. Take an organization like Interpol, which has three core functions. One is to provide an international police communication system. Second, they have a criminal data bank and provide criminal analytical services, and the third thing is that Interpol provides proactive support for law enforcement agencies. They provide the information, but the law enforcement agency in that jurisdiction has to follow it up. And when half your population is in danger of starvation, one murder isn't really that important. That's what scares me.

Other reviews by Roger Adkin:
Strange Affair

 

I liked how Evans talked about the whole backpack culture in this book, and he showed some great places that I'd love to go and visit, but I had several reservations. I had real questions about the characters - the female characters especially were a little bit cardboard, and I had difficulty with the moral question that the book poses.

One of the major themes portrayed in the book is the whole idea of impermanence, which might be because it's geared towards twentysomethings. There's the impermanence of the backpacking life because you're constantly moving from one place to the next, there's the impermanence of jobs, relationships, and even life.

Evans also explores the value of life in first world and third world countries. The hardships of daily life in third world countries can affect the way that death is treated - especially when the people are struggling to get basic necessities like water. And when death is all around you. The death of a tourist just doesn't carry the same weight that it would here.

The plot of Dark Places was fine, the concept of the Internet was great and the settings were wonderful. However, I didn't find the characters believable, so I hardly cared.

Other reviews by Rita Feutl:
Out