A crime story where the main character has a serious disability – interesting reading

Crime writers like to give their characters flaws and difficulties to overcome – a drinking habit, pill addiction, a dead wife, family issues, etc. etc. Occasionally the hero(ine) may have a permanent or temporary disability – I think here particularly of Jeffery Deaver’s character Lincoln Rhyme who is quadriplegic. In In the Dark by Andreas Pfluger, translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside, the main character, Jenny Aaron, is blind which presents quite a few challenges as she forges a career in law enforcement.

Once upon a time Jenny worked for a crime squad known as The Department but on a job she was blinded by a perpetrator and although she still has a police role she is no longer part of the elite group and hasn’t seen most of them since the accident which claimed her sight. Then a prisoner kills a member of staff and will only speak to Jenny so she is brought to Berlin and it becomes obvious that a huge conspiracy is unravelling around her.

The author explains the training that Jenny has received as an unsighted person and especially how she navigates using echo location. I’ve seen this on television and it seems remarkable. The author is careful to explain that people who lose their sight are not as good at this as those who have been always blind but that Jenny devoted herself to the training. At times what she does seems farfetched to me but I really don’t know enough about this and the author claims to have done his research. There are also moments when the limitations of Jenny’s view of the world and her desire to be independent make difficulties for her and the author is clear about this.

The story unfolds as Jenny needs to atone for the fact that in the original incident she left a colleague behind. She has incomplete memories of what happened before her accident and is trying to find out more details so that she can understand her past actions. Then it becomes obvious that the past incident is affecting current events and Jenny finds herself substituting for hostages and being kept prisoner. We get the story from a number of points of view including that of the criminals and Jenny’s friend. As everything comes together it becomes obvious that events are more connected than originally thought and that Jenny may have been betrayed.

The plot of this book is quite complicated and you have to keep on your toes because a stray memory of Jenny’s or a flashback to previous incidents often proves to be important. There is also quite a lot of deep thinking about the nature of sight and memory. I was fascinated by the main character having such a disability and how the author wove that into the story. I was carried along by events and continual revelations. I wasn’t completely captivated by the story but I did enjoy it. It appears that there is a sequel to this story (which may possibly complicate things even further). I may seek that out one day but I don’t feel compelled to do so at present.

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