‘Dark Of Night’ – Dr Evan Wilding #2 by Barbara Nickless

When esteemed historian Elizabeth Lawrence is found in her car, killed by a cobra’s bite, only a brilliant professor of semiotics, Dr. Evan Wilding, can see the signs around her strange death. As he helps homicide detective Addie Bisset decipher the scene, the puzzles left behind offer Evan chilling passage into the mind of a killer.

Evan’s investigation merges with that of an Israeli agent, who claims Elizabeth was close to acquiring an invaluable artifact. She was also drawing the attention of unsavory treasure hunters, forgers, and thieves. Was someone desperate to expose the truth of Elizabeth’s astonishing discovery?

I ordered ‘Dark Of Night’ as soon as I’d finished ‘At First Light’, the first book in the Dr Evan Wilding series. I enjoyed the almost gothic, graphic novel feel of ‘At First Light’ and wanted to see what would happen next.

I was glad to see that the second book was going to go somewhere new rather than repeating the formula of the first book. We immediately left freaky serial killer territory behind and were quickly immersed in a twisty tale about the dark side of the antiquities business and the fanatical pursuit of ancient documents, as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls, that are rumoured to contain an early version of some of the books of the biblical cannons. This time Dr Evan Wilding isn’t called in by the police because of his skill in semiotics. His name is found on a note in a car next to the body of a long-time colleague and friend and he quickly becomes entangled in an investigation into how she came to be fatally bitten by a snake and why she had been trying to contact him immediately before her death.

This book still had that graphic novel feel to it but this time it was using thriller tropes: a shady foreigner trading in antiquities, a Christian billionaire ready to spend whatever was needed to ‘prove’ that his version of the bible is historically accurate, a story of looted treasure going all the way back to Lawrence of Arabia, an enigmatic Israeli who may or may not be working for Mossad, a trail of dead bodies, killed in bizarre ways and a growing threat against Wilding’s life.

The book was fun, although I found the subject matter a little less engaging than the first book. I was carried along mainly by Wilding’s character. We didn’t see him make much use of his semiotics skills this time but we did see him using his insight, compassion and humour to navigate his way through the maze of threats from various unpleasant people and solve the mystery of his friend’s death.

By the end of the book, the shape of Wilding’s life has been changed by the new responsibilities that he’s assumed. I look forward to seeing what that means for him when the third book, ‘Play Of Shadows‘ comes out in November.

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