It’s been two weeks since WHITESANDS was published. In that time it has achieved more success than I thought a book by an unknown author would.
Amazon Canada Reviews – 4 star average
Enthralling Crime Thriller
Samantha K Krewulak
Johann Thorsson provided me with an ARC of this debut novel, and I must honour this fantastic piece of fiction with a review.
I am always in for a ride-along with a brooding, damaged detective trying to keep his life together while solving crimes. John Dark is just the man for this. His life was turned upside down when his daughter went missing, and with minimal sleep he utilizes the tools at the precinct to try and track steadily-cooling leads to locate her. His real job seems like it’s just getting in the way of what he really needs to do and his conscience will not let him rest, “If you were a proper detective, you would have found her by now.” When some strange and gruesome homicides come to light and John and his partner Monique are put on the case, his focus is forced elsewhere for a while and things take a supernatural turn. Parallel to John is the life of Daniel Hope, a programmer who carries the anchor of schizophrenia that proves to be a blessing and a curse.
Thorsson wrote something that I found thought-provoking and also revealing of the vivid interior of Daniel’s mind, “Everyone has problems of their own that they think negate the urgency of others. Everyone can help. Daniel was distracted for a moment by this realization, and his mind cascaded down a river of philanthropic logic. There is always someone who has less than us, so if everyone just gave something it could flow downhill until all was even. Until everyone had the same. Why didn’t they? He felt like he had just discovered a great potential truth, a way to change the world but couldn’t grasp it. Too big for one mind. His mind too dynamic to hold onto it.”
The fact that the author is well-versed in horror and literature makes this story richer, darker, and also more empathetic to the pain of humans experiencing racism, mental illness, and loss. I noticed this because he makes direct and subtle references to the movies “Paranormal Activity,” “E.T.,” and “Poltergeist” while also touching on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” and Stephen King’s “The Body” and “IT.”
Truly, this book has it all: horror, crime, the supernatural. The characters are likeable and relatable and the writing is spot-on. With these winning combinations, Johann Thorsson will you have you begging for more John Dark cases.
Do yourself a favour: pre-order a copy so you can read it when it comes out on September 26th!
Good opening of a series
‘Whitesands’ came onto my radar from Pete Kahle, from Bloodshot Books, who are publishing this release. He was raving about it to me while we were chatting and when Johann contacted me to receive a digital arc, I said absolutely.
I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting into, other than knowing it was a detective story where the main character is trying to find his daughter. Diving in, I wanted to see just how far down the rabbit hole Thorsson took us.
What I liked: Detective John Dark’s daughter has gone missing. Last seen late one night, all leads for her have dried up, but he is still clinging onto hope and following any tip he can. It is this recklessness that has put him into a position where he’s hanging onto his job by a thread and his family by even less.
Thorsson then throws everything upside down by having Dark and his partner, investigate some grisly murder scenes where husbands have killed their wives with no memory of it and soon enough, things get tied together and the chase is on.
The pacing of this book is fantastic and you desperately want Dark to return to the heights that he previously was at in his career, while also finding his daughter.
I liked his partner, Monique, and how she acted as a grounding mechanism for him, as well as had his back no matter what.
The use of security footage was great and the descriptions in these aspects were creepy and fantastic.
What I didn’t like: Ultimately, I found a lot of the police procedural stuff to be a bit off. It’s hard to describe without spoiling stuff, but when certain things happen, the reactions and situations afterwards didn’t really seem believable.
As well, Whitesands itself, and Daniel Hope, seemed very minimally used and even expanded upon, judging from the synopsis and ultimately the massive role they played in the finale of the book.
Why you should buy this: This sets up a second book, which I think may work better with Dark being removed from the Detective aspect. I think people looking for a paranormal, police procedural will have a blast with this one and ultimately, Thorsson left me begging for the book to carry on and to see Dark’s ultimate quest completed.
I’ll be waiting to read that once it arrives.
Amazon United Kingdom Reviews – 4.5 star average
Very enjoyable read
Detective John Dark’s daughter has been missing for two years. In his frantic and unfruitful search for her two years ago, John Dark overreached and was reprimanded and demoted.
I really really enjoyed this book. It was different. I loved John’s character. This is a twisty suspence read. Eerie too. I do hope there is more to come.
Stunning Atmospheric and addictive
Superb! Atmospheric, mysterious and a cracking crime novel with a large dose of the supernatural. I was slightly sceptical about how the above would blend together but it was absolutely seamless and also sensitively covered aspects of schizophrenia and mental health.
The main detective on the case was a little cliche, problems unsolved in his own past and fallen from grace at work. He was, however, immensely likeable and relatable and I felt I knew him well together with his vulnerabilities. The story was utterly compelling and I raced through this, very enjoyable.
Deep, dark, disturbing and devilishly good debut
If I could have given this book 6* I would have! What an incredible debut, and with a story so chilling and suspenseful, I can’t wait to read more from Johann and I hope he’ll be at Iceland Noir to meet as well! The story starts as a locked room mystery and initially unsettles you with the horror of the thought of being unjustly accused, when all the evidence points incontrovertibly to you. But then a second crime with undeniable similarities occurs when the first suspect is still in custody….
The book follows two separate characters to begin with, John Dark, a disgraced detective still desperately searching for his missing daughter, and Daniel Hope, a man whose unstable mind flails between genius and madness. A supernatural twist takes this tormented tale to the next level, and I loved it! Characters are credible and likeable, plotting is tight, and pacing is masterfully handled. I’m looking forward to more from Dark & Hope!
An eerie and atmospheric crime thriller with the perfect mix of supernatural and realism
I had a strong feeling I was going to enjoy this, based on the blurb. However, this actually very much exceeded my expectations. Whitesands is an eerie and atmospheric crime thriller with the perfect mix of supernatural and realism. It made me feel spooked on a couple of occasions, and the spiritual side of the story really pulled at my heartstrings. A thoroughly enjoyable read, with a depth to the story that kept my interest all the way to the last page. I highly recommend this!
New dectective just dropped!
I received an e-Galley ARC of Whitesands: A John Dark Case, authored by Johann Thorsson from Headshot Books, for review consideration. Cover art: Don Noble, Rooster Republic Press. Editor: Richard Thomas. What follows below is my honest review freely given.
I rated this debut novel 4.5 stars. The final draft was written during a Writer-In-Residence in Exeter, England, which sounds extremely fancy and delightful. I had never heard of that term previously, but as my Nannie loved to say, you learn something new every day, whether you plan to or not. She was a cheeky one, bless her.
If the world were kind, pets would live forever and parents would never outlive their children. Parents would never be left with the question of if their child was out there in the world dead, or alive with no way to contact them. I have binge watched Law and Order and the edgier Law and Order: SVU (dun dun!), I’ve seen a thing or two, so I know a thing or two about the darker side of the streets…from my couch and with commercial breaks. I was a pharmacy tech for five years, and I was low key shocked to learn that one of the night pharmacists’ sons was a hospital grade drug addict. He would call up there a lot trying to score from his dad and we all felt terrible for him having to go through it, he was the sweetest guy. Never did anything to enable his son, always tried to get him clean. I’m not one to post spoilers, but in this novel there is a character on the force that has a similar type of relationship with a child, and it just hit me how realistic that is; it happens, and it sucks. I thought it was well written and represented.
Speaking as the reader, you become invested in the MCs; they exist wholly, with their well being becoming important to you quickly. There is an event that shapes their actions in this novel that happens before our knowledge of them, and it will be referenced often, it is soaked through everything. I love that it’s just as relevant but the author doesn’t give us every detail, we are not to know yet, but it also not used as a cliffhanger or carrot and stick type device. I don’t know of there is an actual term for it, but it’s where you are aware that it is a story that has been going on before you were observing it, and it is continuing after stopping, and the author is trusting that you the reader is intelligent enough to grasp that with minimal to no hand holding. The otherness aspect of the novel gives some creepy scenes, one in particular had me feeling claustrophobic. It also made me twitchy because I see things move from the corner of my eyes sometimes and am constantly telling myself it’s just my cat, even if my cat is on my lap!
This novel is a celebration of love I think, and how that comes in many forms; so too does grief. Grief of a parent, a child, a spouse… but also how a parent, child or spouse handles their grief and how that affects the world around them. I wanted to message the author immediately after finishing this novel to ask when the next John Dark Case would be coming out, but I refrained, barely. I do look forward to anything Johann Thorsson writes next, you should too.
Think The Silence of the Lambs with Supernatural elements
Patrick R. McDonough
The debut novel from Johann Thorsson takes on a story that dares to enter the arena with one of the greats, Thomas Harris (assumption for this comparison solely rests on this reviewers shoulders). Specifically, of the Hannibal Lecter series, Whitesands shares the same tone, set of balls, and brutality as The Silence of The Lambs.
This ain’t some rookie detective, however. He’s seen a lot of shit in his time. Is on a mission to find his daughter that’s been missing for two years. Has a fraying marriage.
Then we have another character who we later get in their head. A computer programmer. He may seem random at first, but Thorsson’s comparison to Harris is a fair one when it comes to the layers he built into this story.
Everything falls into place, what the story is about can be found in the synopsis section wherever you’re reading this. How the story made me feel can be found in the next line:
I liked it at first, then I found myself curious, asking why, following our protagonist around wondering what the hell some of these paths have to do with the main storyline. Then, about fifty percent into the story we find ourselves in an abandoned theme-park that is themed from The Wizard of Oz film. At that point, from the description of what’s found there and (I wish I knew what came after the and, but something magical just clicked in my head)…
Next thing I knew, I loved this story. I was even more so in than previously. It has an ending that makes sense. I can see some readers being upset, maybe sad, hell… knowing how extreme folks are with their reviews at times, I can see some people flat out pissed about the review.
It’s a good story that will have pretty strong reactions. It’s a debut, and like any debut that isn’t afraid to say whatever the hell it wants to say, it’s a showcase of how damn talented the writer is.
Many thanks to the author for the digital copy of this crime fiction. Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
Detective John Dark’s daughter went missing two years ago. When he investigated on his own, he overstepped boundaries and was reprimanded and demoted.
He is now back working homicides and still looking for his daughter.
His first homicide case that he and his partner are called to investigate involves the strange death of a housewife. The only other person in the house at the time was her husband. He doesn’t remember dressing her body to resemble a deer.
Odder still … a few days later a similar case comes up. The only connection between the cases is a prep school and a 30-year-old missing persons case.
WHITESANDS introduces readers to Detective John Dark. He is aptly named as this is a cold, dark tale involving murder, Nordic Noir, and an element of the supernatural. This thriller is well-written with plenty of twists and turns guaranteed to keep eyes riveted to the pages. The plot is fascinating, the story line intriguing. Characters are solidly drawn and the conclusion is surprising, unexpected.
Crime horror at its best
Wow! This a first novel? Crime, horror, social commentary, mental illness.. revenge ghost!
Detective John Dark is living the nightmare of his own missing daughter when he and his partner get wrapped into 2 murder investigations that don’t make sense. Something else is working in the darkness.
This is a full length novel and even anything more of a review is a spoiler.
I couldn’t put it down! I read the book during work time, at 2am in the morning, waiting in line for fast food!
Once I started making connections I yelled out loud a time or two, “No Freaking Way!” Startling my family.
Release date on 9/26/21 so I’ll probably update this review after that. Read the book description and know this book is much deeper, there is a lot going on in here.
There better be a book 2 soon! It was left with an open ending for a reason…
I need to know……
Order immediately. Please don’t wait and do it now. Highly recommended!!
Emotional dark supernatural thriller
Detective John Dark’s teenage daughter has been missing for over a year, but he has never stopped looking for her. This made the character immediately relatable and the story compelling and emotional and engaged me from the start.
I loved the character of Daniel Hope and I wish he had been in the book even more. His story arc was so interesting.
I loved the murders in this book. The weird folkloric stagings of the victims were striking, and I loved the mixture of the serial killer and paranormal genres.
My only nitpick was that I found some of the conversations about racism a little heavy handed in delivery and not as organic with the characters as I would have liked.
I found this a gripping and emotional read and I hope it is the first of many John Dark novels.
Thank you to the author and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
A fantastic, creepy page-turner
Whitesands is a fantastic blending of genres in the hands of a gifted story-teller.
Part psychological thriller, part supernatural police procedural—think The Sinner, think Behind Her Eyes. I loved every moment I got a chance to visit the world of Whitesands and this complex ‘Dark’ character. It spoke to me, begged me to turn pages. Creepy as hell moments that made my spine crawl. An ending that felt perfect. More please, Mr Thorsson.
Brilliant Supernatural Thriller
A brilliant debut, supernatural thriller. John dark is a detective, whose own daughter went missing two years ago, and it has haunted him ever since, that he as a detective, is unable to find his own daughter. He has been searching endlessly ever since.
When a bizarre murder occurs Dark and his partner are pulled off of the easy cases and called into homicide to solve a very strange case. A woman is murdered and her body is staged postmortem. All evidence points to the woman’s husband as the killer but Dark’s intuition tells him it’s not that simple, that the husband despite all the evidence to the contrary, is innocent. While detective Dark searches for an answer, a second murder occurs in a similar manner. Now it is up to Dark to solve the murders, before more lives are lost. His search leads him to answers even he finds hard to believe. This exciting, engaging, supernatural thriller is beautifully written, atmospheric, and masterfully plotted.
After reading this debut I know I will be keeping an eye out for more from the author. I’m sure if you read Whitesands yourself, you will agree.
Genuine horror within everyday living.
Detective John Dark is a tormented man enduring a heavy burden he has carried for two years. A desperate search for his missing daughter has resulted in continuous dead ends. When assigned to a grisly homicide case along with partner Monique, a slow decent into uncharted territory begins. The gruesome crime scene appears to be an open and shut case, however upon further examination there seems to be a far more sinister explanation that exists.
Author Johann Thorsson has created a distinctive piece of fiction embracing the true crime genre within the pages of his novel Whitesands. Establishing a combination of cold case and extraordinary crime scenes, he warrants the realization of genuine horror within everyday living. These disturbing and morbid murder sites are savagely orchestrated with elaborate forensic details that are unique to say the least. Chapters of art and abhorrence are written with a ritualistic style of brilliance enveloping everything from discomforting interrogations to evidence of possible supernatural occurrences.
Bringing depth and texture to his book, Thorsson provides an undercurrent of seances, psychics and mediums who speak to the dead. These relate to how the living and the deceased make their presence known between each other’s planes of existence. The search for answers are so intense and so implausible, you will never look at a crime scene photo the same again.
This is a story of one man’s lone journey to find answers to his inner afflictions, while attempting to solve bizarre crime ridden homicides. But how good a detective can you be if you can’t even find your own daughter?
I was truly impressed how Johann Thorsson guides his readers by means of incomprehensible truths. It provides that special edge that so many books lack today.
Have you ever really enjoyed a book, but the ending just didn’t feel right? I guess horror books are known for that. This read was so much detective and police stuff that I thought I was reading a thriller, but then it throws a curve ball that turns it into horror. In all honesty, I’m not big on possession stuff, but overall I still enjoyed this book.
A captivating mix of Nordic Noir, ghost stories, and murder mysteries in Big City, USA.
Book Nerd’s Brain Dump
In Whitesands, Detective John Dark is, to put it mildly, Not Doing Well. His daughter Emily has been missing for two years, and despite his willingness to Break Every Rule in his desperate search, there’s been no movement in her case. His wife and son barely speak to him, and professionally, he’s all but frozen out of the force.
That is, until a very strange murder occurs. A husband has stabbed his wife to death (I know, that’s not the strange part, just stay with me) and arranged her body in a bizarre, ritualistic fashion. The thing is, the guy swears he didn’t do it, despite irrefutable evidence. Of course, they all say that, so hubby goes in the clink, case closed, until a very similar murder happens across town – wife dead, husband crying innocent despite airtight evidence, surrealist staging of the corpse.
Although John Dark is a brilliant detective, his knotty personal life means that he’s damaged goods in the eyes of both his colleagues and himself. His confidence is shot, his coworkers don’t put a lot of stock in his findings, and well… unbreakable evidence. Needless to say, there is More Than Meets The Eye with these murders.
Although the plot is a lot of fun, and kept me guessing for some time, my real joy in this one is Mr. Thorsson’s style. It swings from hard-boiled detective narrative, complete with short choppy sentences and a world-weary outlook, to lyrical, even poetic prose, and somehow, none of it feels out of place.
I should add that I was expecting Whitesands to lean more heavily toward the Nordic Noir end of the book pool. I have read a lot of NN books in my day, but to me, they tend to be hit or miss – so many descriptions of icy weather, or coffee and cheese sandwich meals, or names with like 6 consonants in a row just shuts me down. But Mr. Thorsson opted to set his book squarely in the good old US of A, which allowed me to connect with it more, and also gave him the chance to weigh in on some current social issues.
This is a tricky bit to review, because although the author is not WRONG in what he observes and discusses about this country (he actually hits it pretty dead-on), I didn’t always like the way he went about it. Some of his points, although valid and correct, felt like they were shoehorned in just to make those points, without really adding anything to the story or serving any real purpose other than a soapbox.
I also feel like the author would have benefited from a cranky editor with a big red pen. There were some silly contradictions, like a character saying “I’ve got the file on Alice Whitacre here” and then a few paragraphs later asking “Alice Woodacre, right?” while still holding the file folder with the correct name on it. There were also a few cases of switching he/she pronouns randomly, or using the wrong word with things like palate/palette, that kind of thing. Those things are absolutely not dealbreakers, but they can be distracting.
I have to give it to the author on one major personal pet peeve. Mr. Thorsson was able to do the nearly-impossible: Write the first book in a series in a way that it both has a satisfying ending, AND leaves enough open that sequels would make sense. If you’ve read my reviews of other series-kickoffs, you’ll know how picky I am about those.