The Darkness - Jason Pinter "This drug sounds like it's already swimming in the city's bloodstream"

NOTE: I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program

Henry Parker's unknown half-brother, Stephen Gaines, was killed and he thinks it has something to do with the drug lord, known only as The Fury. So he and his mentor and (in)famous reporter, Jack O'Donnell begin the investigation. Meanwhile, Paulina, a rival reporter, has been blackmailed into working with these people.

I Liked:
The opening sequence is pure adrenaline. Watching Paulina being abducted and her abductor threatening her was very gritty and intense.
Jack O'Donnell was an interesting, if overly done, character. But my favorite character had to be Morgan Isaacs. Somehow, I was really able to connect with his situation, his (sometimes crazy) thought processes, and his part in the story.
I know this sounds particularly strange, but I felt the ending was perfect. It was the perfect wrap-up, not too optimistic, not too dour. It closed off all the threads nicely and didn't go on forever. Plus, there was no "let's spend the last ten pages of the book detailing what happened, who did it and why".

I Didn't Like:
I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine program and have not read any of the previous books in the Henry Parker series. Normally, I do research to make sure I don't read books in the middle of the series. This time, my research failed me. I cannot review this book as a part of the series, so I will review this as a single novel...and let me forewarn you, as a single novel, I was not impressed. Reading The Darkness without knowledge of the previous entries was confusing. I am thrown in the middle of character interactions, a plot arc that spans several novels, and events that I have no basis on and no knowledge of, and the author does absolutely nothing to bring new readers up to speed. You are left wondering how these people interact, why they are doing certain things, or how they know certain information. Again, for a series, not a bad thing, but as a new reader, not fun.
The characters were unimpressive. Henry Parker comes off as an arrogant, wet journalist, very unlikeable. We are told that he was (in Jack's eyes) "A pit bull...clutching a lead with his teeth and shaking it until the truth came loose", but I never found Henry doing anything worthy of that description. Jack O'Donnell is the now all-too-common wizened man with an addiction. I can't tell you how tired I am getting of these clones, all these ambiguous heroes. No, I don't need a Superman "can do anything" hero, but I am tired of authors creating these heroes because characters like Dr. House and his unconventional methods (and drug addiction) are popular. Paulina is a stereotypical career woman, too busy to worry about her child until her child is threatened and suddenly the maternal instinct turns on like a light bulb. And her "relationship" and interactions with her daughter, Abigail, were full-on cliches. I'm not sure what role Amanda, Henry's girlfriend, plays in this book, other than to worry about Henry and to want to sleep with him. Other than the above mentioned, her character seems to consist of a mix of "girly worry" mode, with all the nice cliched female stereotypes, such as eating chocolate, lighting scented candles, having a beer, and reading a Nora Roberts book, and "I will kick your butt" mode. Made me cringe. Morgan had his problems, but I will discuss them later. Chester is a pretty dumb bad guy if he gives him a name that is SO easy to trace back to himself.
The plot is so slow. At Paulina's capture, Chester tells her to print an article on Thursday. We have to suffer through almost 200 pages of Henry running around doing nothing (including a worthless scene where Jack goes to a bar and drinks soda--I am still wondering what the point of that scene was) before we learn what is going on. And then, I was unimpressed--both with Paulina's column (which doesn't quite sound right, if you ask me) and the supposedly bigger, better, more amazing drug (part of the reason people become addicted is because they are trying to reach the initial high, not the high itself). Definitely not worth the setup, definitely not worth the time to wade through the novel.
Speaking of plot, a key plot point, the elusive picture Chester shows Paulina is an idiot plot device. Why did Chester bother to get such an elusive picture that would easily trace back to himself when he could have gone to Abigail's Facebook page (which no one seems to know how to use) and taken one there? He would have been far more anonymous and much more...sensible? Far less traceable? Of course, then a huge chunk of the book would be gone and there is no way they would have published a two hundred page book.
Speaking of economy, did you know our economy is in the crapper? Well, if you don't, read this book and Pinter will make sure to remind you every 3.78 pages. Honestly, I know how it is out there, I've gone through some of the perils of this economy, and, honestly, I don't read books like this to be constantly reminded. If I wanted that, I'd watch the Nightly News.
Jason Pinter has too much fun throwing in as many entertainment and movies as he can. I skimmed through fifty pages and found references to Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Showgirls, Battlefield Earth, Trainspotting, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Walt Disney. Again, this occurs over maybe 100 pages. This was jarring, almost more jarring then having no one in the book mention recognizable movies. I almost felt that Pinter was A) shouting out to all his favorite movies or B) got paid by the number of movies and celebrities he could force into his book.
Then my favorite part: continuity issues! This is where my problems with Morgan appear. Morgan is presented as a playboy, dating hot, foreign models and drinking. Then he makes a random comment on page 99 about wanting a hot, young secretary "who had no desires in life other than to work until the day she met someone like him....who could satisfy their every need and pay the bills...she would have dinner a doting mother..." Where did this change of character happen? One minute, he wants a hot secretary, the next, he's looking for a wife?! So he could have a family?! So he could be a good father?!
Henry also develops the ability to read between the lines of text messages for content that wasn't there. On page 295, he receives a text from his police buddy, Curt, who says succinctly that they found three people dead and one was famous. No mention is made if Henry and Curt exchange more than one text, and then Henry tells Jack that the victims were drawn and quartered (!) and "Fury" was written on the wall (!). Wow, Henry is good if he can figure that out from a simple text message!
Amanda must play musical apartments. At the beginning of the book, Amanda point blank says she is staying with friends so she and Henry can take their relationship slow. Then, on page 297, Jack is worried that Amanda will mind Henry and him researching there. Uh, she doesn't live she probably wouldn't mind...(she ends up being there and not minding, but that's besides the point).
My final complaint is with Pinter's writing style. Not only does he switch jarringly between first person Henry Parker and third person everyone else, but Pinter also will reiterate all the important key points from a previous scene, as if the audience has been given a 500 piece puzzle and doesn't know how to put it together. He does this with the rapper (bringing him in early, showing him wanting the drug and dying and then having Jack and Henry talk about how important this guy was and how his death will cause a spike in drug requests). I'm not dense, I can take hints very well, thank you very much.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Pretty much standard mystery fare. D***, h***, s*** with a few f-bombs dropped in for good measure.
Hot "@sses" and the like are referred. Henry has a girlfriend. Morgan sleeps around with hot models.
One of the murders ends up with the man having every bone in his body broken. The police come upon a triple murder-suicide, an explosion kills a man, and Henry and Jack observe a murder. Paulina is abducted and her daughter threatened.

I am a firm believer that a thriller should thrill me, should force me to continue reading even when it is 2 am in the morning. Not once did this book tell me not to put it down. Not once did this book beg me to read it instead of something else.
Perhaps reading this in the context of the rest of the series would make more sense. As I didn't have the opportunity, as a single entry, I didn't enjoy it, got too aggravated with some of the weaker plot points, and would not recommend.