THE DARKEST HEART By Dan Smith Reviewed
Escaping the violence that plagues Rio de Janerio’s slums leads Zico, a seasoned assassin, down a path darker than his childhood memories, delivering him to the heart of Brazil’s lawless jungle while wrapping a moral dilemma around the reader’s soul. Author Dan Smith’s fifth crime fiction novel brims with a linear narrative that punctures the psyche, forcing goodness to become inseparable from evil, leaving the reader to question if they’re not one in the same.
Zico’s “living nightmare” gasps its first breath when he agrees to slit the throat of human rights activist, Sister Dolores Beckett, ensuring that the indigenous people who survive massacres at the hands of mine owners remain subservient. Zico begins his hunt for the nun with a load of contraband cargo, his father-figure Raul, girlfriend Daniella, hit-man Leonardo, and dog, Rocky, aboard a dilapidated fishing boat. Raw aggression breeds distrusts among the group as they navigate murky river waters into an increasingly remote wasteland of undergrowth and predators. Cocaine, sweltering heat, and lust fuse with the tension to trigger mutiny until two unlikely passengers board. Sensing specks of redemption among tainted souls, the passengers question the crew’s motives until they unearth an apocalyptic horror which tests any shreds of salvation.
Set against Brazil’s ominous jungle, the author draws from his own South American exploits and innate fears to create a palpable atmosphere laced with sensory images only personal experiences create, challenging the reader to remember they’re not aboard with the characters, drifting into doom. Smith weaves demonic folklore into dialog spoken by a multidimensional protagonist who’s mindful of his evilness and desperate to escape it, even if the cost damns his soul. Literary quality prose carry the novel through darkness and light, making THE DARKEST HEART a mesmerizing read that will terrify and elate your need for crime fiction.