Degrees of Darkness by Tony J. Forder #BookReview


Nothing is ever entirely black or white
Pre-teen girls are being abducted from their homes and their families murdered. When Frank Rogers, ex-DI with the Metropolitan Police, is told that his own daughter is missing, his son a victim, he sets aside his grief to help old colleagues investigate the case.

​Soon Frank’s face is all over the news. And in an unexpected turn of events, the killer contacts the police to say he is willing to talk. But only to Frank.

​When the body of the first abducted girl is discovered, Frank realises the investigation has become a race against time to save his daughter’s life. 

​In order to solve the case, Frank must work out how the killer is choosing his victims. To do that, he must first enter the killer’s mind. But is Frank able to drag himself into its darker reaches? And if so, will he be able to pull himself back?

I'm a huge fan of Tony J. Forder's books but until now haven't managed to read Degrees of Darkness which was originally published in 2017. However, it has now been re-issued as a self-published novel and so I decided it was the perfect time to rectify that omission.
I've read some dark books in my time and Degrees of Darkness will be joining my list of novels that I loved but will recommend with caution. This is a graphic, harrowing read and as the killer's victims are pre-teen girls, I can appreciate why some people will decide it's not for them. That said, it is not ever gratuitous or exploitative; most of the abuse and violence is implied or revealed retrospectively.
When former Metropolitan Police DI Frank Rogers learns his ex-wife and son have been brutally slaughtered and his daughter, Laura kidnapped, he is now on the outside of the sort of investigation he would once have led, and in the awful position of being a family member who knows more than usual about how cases like this work - and how vital it is that the right person is in charge. It quickly becomes obvious that he was never one to kowtow to authorities and that nothing is going to stop him hunting down the person who has his daughter. It's impossible not to warm to Frank, his grief is crushing and yet he realises that he is the best person to work out who the killer is. 
Some of the chapters follow the murderer's perspective and it's hard to fully explain the depths of their depravity without giving too much away. Laura isn't the only victim but the same horrific fate undoubtedly awaits her if she isn't found soon. Although the serial killer has been active for months, the action here takes place over a few days and the urgency of the investigation, as the bodies of the other girls begin to be discovered, makes for a fast-paced, gripping read.
This isn't just about the desperate search for Laura before it's too late, however, and it's the perceptive, heartbreaking exploration of the mental anguish of such a case and indeed what drives a person into darkness that makes Degrees of Darkness so compelling. Frank's torture is almost palpable as he recognises the moral dilemmas he faces even as he contemplates what life will be like for him going forward, with or without Laura in it. He makes some difficult, arguably contentious decisions during the course of the novel but though we may feel alarmed as to what the eventual ramifications will be, it's always easy to empathise with him. It's not just his agony that we feel though, and from the brave, resilient Laura's fears through to the emotional scars left on the officers investigating the case, Tony J. Forder's honest, insightful writing ensures this is a deeply affecting novel.
I realise I've avoided discussing the killer in any depth in this review and that's a conscious decision as it's important to discover their identity and what their shocking intentions are through reading the book. However, I can say that I thought the examination of what led them to such terrible, wicked darkness is both shocking and distressing.
Degrees of Darkness is an addictive, powerful, poignant thriller which understands that the emotional repercussions endure beyond the conclusion of an investigation. Highly recommended.

Degrees of Darkness is self-published and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author
Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, will be joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered.
Tony’s other series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder, and Cold Winter Sun. In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins, released in November 2020.
Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author. He is currently working on Bliss #8, The Autumn Tree.