Dark Storm by Karen Harper

Dark Storm by Karen Harper
A South Shores Novel
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (370 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

There are some forces you can’t outrun…

Forensic psychologist Claire Markwood has experienced her share of disaster. But nothing could prepare her for her sister, Darcy, going missing. Claire rushes to the butterfly sanctuary where Darcy has been working, prepared to do what she does best—work the clues. But her sister, along with her car and some of the sanctuary’s rarest species of butterflies, has seemingly vanished without a trace.

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Wow, was this a nail-biter! I started this novel and I couldn’t put it down. I began reading it early morning and finished it late in the day and I jumped on my computer as soon as I finished so I could share what I liked while it was still fresh. There’s a lot to like about Dark Storm.

I guess this is the final book in the South Shore series but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t met Nick or Claire, Bronco, Darcy or Jace before. It wasn’t an issue that I hadn’t read the previous books because this novel was purely about Claire and Nick’s race to save someone they love. It was about their present. Most supporting secondary characters were family or friends like family, helping Nick and Claire in their search and caring for their kids. Actually, that’s something that impressed me – Ms. Harper never forgot the kids. With everything else that was going on, Claire remained a mom, Nick a dad, and they were very much dedicated to their family’s safety and well-being. The writing was so solid, it made those loving elements very clear.

Speaking of elements, as I read this novel, hurricane Dorian just finished harming the Bahamas and was threatening the East Coast. When Ms. Harper wrote about a hurricane, basing it on the one that hit back in 2017 (as per her Author’s Note), I’m sure she never imagined that a hurricane would hit again the same year this book was published. As I was reading about Jace and his hurricane hunter plane, and the warnings being issued for the residents in the book, I was listening to The Weather Channel. It was rather freaky to read things that were going on in the book in my hands at the same time listening and watching it actually happening with Florida and the Carolinas. For effect, for timing, for sheer impact, reading this novel at the same time real life mirrored it made Dark Storm an even more dramatic read. It reinforced the realism and proved the author did her homework. She has the skill to create the feeling of time running out, to bring the fear and worry for her characters alive, and the author put me in the middle of the action. When Ms. Harper put Claire through the wringer, I was along for the ride. By the time Ken arrived with the flashing lights, I was emotionally exhausted. That couldn’t have happened if the author hadn’t had the skill set to make a reader feel connected and invested in a character’s well-being. Ms. Harper has that skill in spades.

Here is where I share that I talked to the book. I stopped at a few points, held the book in my hands and scolded it “Come on! Can’t you see it’s too perfect? Don’t trust it!” or, “I knew it! I knew it! I told you so!” or my favorite – “That’s the guilty party! I just know it!”… Until I found out I was wrong and had to think back to figure out what clues I missed. No one was home when I was reading the exciting parts so I could walk around my living room, talk to the novel, sit down and read some more, and get up and start talking to the book again. I tell you, I had more conversations with Dark Storm than any book I’ve read in a long while. I might seem crazy, or it might be because this was a really good story. I vote for the story.

The tie-in between the butterflies and the sea creature was bizarre, especially when I found out that it wasn’t totally fiction. That was a fascinating discovery. Actually, I am really glad I read the Author’s Note at the end because Ms. Harper shared some really cool things. Like I said before, she did her homework.

The best thing about this was the wrap-up and the happy ending. What happened to Nita at the end, that’s another thing I could relate to because that’s what happened to me, sort of. It doesn’t have to be a hurricane though. Any big, nasty storm can have that effect. I can validate the truth of that.

All in all, Dark Harbor was a super great read. It’s gripping, suspenseful, fast-paced and almost impossible to put down. There’s murder, weird plots and some unexpected surprises. The mystery kept me guessing and the crime was intense, but what made this book wonderful was meeting Claire and Nick. They were a terrific couple and are perfect together. I enjoyed seeing Nick being able to understand his wife, supporting her even when she got into all those pickles, and those passionate clinches of overwhelming love just when they needed it most. If you enjoy a well written mystery, intense suspense and husband and wife sleuths, then I wholeheartedly recommend reading this book.

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