With neither a hint of voyeurism nor nostalgia, Cook has used his skills as a seasoned crime fiction writer to create an impressive and moving work of debut nonfiction. Even Darkness Sings flows like a novel, each chapter with unique characters, settings and themes described in rich detail. Historical context is judiciously given for each locale to inform readers without bogging them down in minutiae. As a result, even non-history aficionados can engage with, and appreciate, this book. Surprising instances of justified irreverence are peppered throughout, adding to the book’s vibrancy and authenticity ... At its core, the author is writing a love letter to dark places, which are a bridge of shared experiences between the past and present that links humanity together.
Cook...carefully blends his thoughts and feelings with the related history, creating a portrait that is intimate and emotional and yet grounded in context. Because each essay is short and there are many of them, readers would do well to read slowly, pausing after each to allow time for reflection. After dwelling in the dark, one might embrace the light, love and life all the more, finding hope and optimism because of—not in spite of—these sad stories.
Horrific atrocities prompt reflection and hesitant redemption in this sometimes lugubrious, sometimes luminous memoir ... Cook doesn’t reach for moral lessons in the awful past; instead they emerge tacitly from signs of life and compassion he discovers in the present. The result is a gripping exploration of how hope sprouts from despair.
After more than 30 works in his genre, prolific, award-winning crime novelist Cook...tries his hand at nonfiction with a quirky but engrossing travel book of 28 short chapters whose theme—unhappy locales throughout the world—delivers on its promise ... Insightful, sometimes shocking, and often disheartening.