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TORONTO, Ontario – Martin Reese is a man of unusual interests. The devoted father and husband retired from his job after selling his tech company for a hefty profit, and he now fills his free time with camping trips.
But those trips are only a cover for Martin’s true passion – tracking down the undiscovered graves of serial killers’ victims and uncovering their bodies. He has always had a problem fixating on certain women, but he sees his hobby as a safe way of channeling that energy into something productive. The families of the victimes get closure that the police couldn’t provide, and Martin gets to scratch an itch that won’t go away.
But all that digging brings unwanted attention, both from a police detective obsessed with catching “The Finder” who has been embarrassing the department, and from a man whose work Martin has been disturbing. To escape their clutches and keep his family safe, Martin may have to access a part of himself he’s been hiding from for most of his life.
Nathan Ripley is the pseudonym of Naben Ruthnum. Naben grew up in Kelowna and spent most of his twenties in Vancouver, making frequent trips to the Pacific Northwest setting of Find You In the Dark to see concerts and, eventually, to conduct research. His interest in pulp, thriller, and horror fiction never flagged even when he was focused on writing criticism and literary fiction. Stepping into the Nathan Ripley pseudonym to write crime fiction was a natural step, as Ruthnum continued to write short stories, eventually winning the Journey Prize. Find You In the Dark is his first novel. He lives in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto.
About the Book
In this chilling and disquieting debut thriller perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’s Hidden Bodies and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, a family man with a habit of digging up the past catches the attention of a serial killer who wants anything but his secrets uncovered.
For years, unbeknownst to his wife and teenage daughter, Martin Reese has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and obsessively studying them, using them as guides to find the missing bodies of victims. He doesn’t take any souvenirs, just photos that he stores in an old laptop, and then he turns in the results anonymously. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of wrongs. Detective Sandra Whittal sees the situation differently. On a meteoric rise in police ranks due to her case-closing efficiency, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source she calls the Finder, especially since he keeps leading the police right to the bodies. Even if he isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, how can she be sure he won’t start soon? On his latest dig, Martin searches for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the early 1990s murderer who may have been responsible for the disappearance of his wife’s sister. But when he arrives at the site, he finds more than just bones.
There’s a freshly killed body—a young and missing Seattle woman—lying among remains that were left there decades ago. Someone else knew where Jason Shurn left the corpses of his victims…and that someone isn’t happy that Martin has been going around digging up his work. And when a crooked cop with a tenuous tie to Martin vanishes, Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder. Hunted by a real killer and by Whittal, Martin realizes that in order to escape, he may have to go deeper into the killer’s dark world than he ever thought…
“Find You in the Dark”
Nathan Ripley | June 19, 2018 | Atria Books Hardcover | 978-1501178207 | $26 e-book | B078M1T19K | $13.99 Thriller
Praise for “Find You in the Dark”
“Ripley … has come up with a fresh angle to the serial murder game. There’s a certain Silence of the Lambs feel to the twisty narrative.” —Kirkus Reviews
“While Find You in the Dark has dead bodies aplenty, it is a psychological novel that employs characteristics more self-consciously literary than standard genre fare.” —Quill & Quire
“Dirt is always a problem – a thing to be disturbed in just the right way, gotten rid of, or somehow escaped. Where the novel differs from others is that the grime that pervades the text is always counterbalanced by a sterile cleanliness – and at each point that the dirt is cleared away, what is revealed underneath is somehow more disturbing than what came before…Find You in the Dark is a fast-paced book that one can blow through in a weekend, but it isn’t exactly a beach read. It is more akin to dark British crime TV dramas such as Broadchurch or Luther, satisfyingly sinister and unsettling in their explorations of the violent possibilities of humanity.” —The Globe and Mail
“Nathan Ripley’s twisty, haunting new thriller delves into the sinister darkness buried in obsession. Clever and diabolical.” – Kirkus Reviews
An Interview with Nathan Ripley
How did the rise in true-crime interest influence you to write this book?
For one thing, I think this interest has always been with us, whether it was confined to the True Detective-style photomags or TV news magazines — I just think that there’s slightly more NPR gloss associated with the latest spate of podcast and documentary true crime. Bill James makes a great case for true crime being essential social history in his book “Popular Crime,” and I think he’s right — well-written and non-exploitative writers have known this for a long time, and there’s a great legacy of their work to look back on. But there’s also some mutilation-obsessed, grotesque true crime that is strangely mainstream, works that deal with the violent deaths of women, especially, in a way that always bothered me. So I thought about a true-crime obsessee who was one step beyond the hobbyist, someone who was actually drawn to studying these crimes out of a need to suppress his own desire to commit one. The tough line here was making my protagonist, Martin Reese, someone that the regular true-crime—and crime novel—reader could partially see themselves in, not the kind of monster that we eventually meet in the book in the form of the serial killers, past and present, that Martin confronts.
How was the experience of writing this book different from your first?
I almost answered this by saying “This is my first book!” because it is indeed my first published novel under any name, and Nathan Ripley’s first publication. But as Naben Ruthnum, I published a long essay in book form called Curry: Eating, Reading and Race, which was a research, reading, and memoir-intensive process that I found strikingly different—and much harder—than writing fiction is. I’ve always been a writer of fiction first, and came to criticism by accident (and out of a need to find paying writing work!) But the long and lonely process of writing Find You In the Dark over several drafts, before having an agent, a publisher, or any real confidence that I could get it out to readers, was challenging in its own right, of course.
How did you walk the tightrope to create a character who has some not-so-normal interests, but who is still likeable to some extent?
I found it was essential to give him one very pure relationship that he was extremely good at: Martin’s a great father, and this one driving motivation to keep his family intact and his daughter safe was a crucial part in making his disturbing hobby at all palatable. There’s also, of course, a good side to what Martin has been doing with his police files and shovel all these years — he’s helping families reach some version of closure, by finding the remains of their loved ones.
Who would be your dream castings for the book’s main characters?
The book has been optioned for television, and we were just talking about dream castings this week! What I learned from that meeting is that I am absurdly out of touch with modern actors. My dream Martin would be circa 2004-ish John Cusack.
Why did you decide to set the book in Seattle?
While I strictly avoided naming any real serial killers in this book, which is all about rummaging through crimes of the past, the Pacific Northwest has long been an active site of serial killings, particularly from the 60s through the 80s. This means there are many undiscovered remains of victims out there, something that I think a lot of my readers will be aware of. I also love the city, and it made sense for someone with Martin’s tech career background to live there.
Will we see these characters again?
I think so.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the benefits and drawbacks to writing under a pen name?
There aren’t many drawbacks — though I think some people may think that I’m trying to hide my cultural background, or that I was asked to by publishers, which is emphatically not true. I like writing some material as Nathan Ripley, some as Naben Ruthnum — it lets me talk to different publics, and to have a career that spans genres.
Despite this being a thriller featuring women who are victims of serial killers, you don’t highlight the violence against them. Was this a concious choice?
Definitely. I wanted this book to point to our cultural fascination with this kind of violence without gratifying that fascination —but at the same time, I didn’t want to avoid the fact that most of this kind of serial killing victimizes women. So there was a balance, here, between talking about where an obsession with violence can go and indulging too much in depicting that violence.
Do you think everyone has a little bit of this darkness in them or do you think it’s limited to certain people?
I think everyone has a varying dose of darkness — and I think some people with no darkness at all end up having immense insight into troubled people.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Reading and watching true crime and fictional crime, the same as the readers I’m hoping to reach! This book was grown out of the interest that I had in this field, and in imagining that interest turned sinister. I think Martin Reese is as much like a reader as he is a detective—he’s a fascinated audience member who can’t stick to the sidelines, eventually, but what he thinks of a game on some level quickly pulls him in to a dangerous reality that he has to fight against until the last page of the book.
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