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The Dark Hour
The Black List
Sydney Fitzpatrick series, #3 & #4
Robin Burcell

11/27/12 / ISBN 9780062133472 -
12/26/12 / ISBN 9780062133540
Suspense / FBI Special Agent / Forensic Artist
Amazon - Amazon

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

Robin Burcell has written back-to-back novels, The Dark Hour and The Black List, coming out this holiday season. The reason for this was that life events delayed her writing for a few years. If you have never read any of her previous books, publishing two books so close together is actually good news because the reader does not have to wait for a new novel. To get a better understanding of the characters, The Dark Hour should be read first.

Burcell, an FBI-trained forensic artist, used her experiences as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator, to write thrillers about Sydney Fitzpatrick, an FBI forensic artist. In The Dark Hour, Fitzpatrick travels to Amsterdam to sketch a witness to a high profile killing; while in the US there is an ongoing investigation of a Senator’s assassination. These two seemingly unrelated murders become the center-point of a conspiracy to spread a plague around the world. Burcell also teases with a sub-plot that has the reader wondering if Sydney’s future lover’s wife is alive or dead.

The Black List has Fitzpatrick’s sometimes FBI partner baby-sitting his soon to be ex-wife after she became involved with someone whose life is threatened. The plot takes off from there with a lot of twists and turns that come together by the end of the book. The main plot is centered on the refugee program and delves into the corruption angle as well as the effect on national security since there appears to be no accountability.

Through the characters, Burcell is able to point out how unsavory individuals are allowed to enter the US through the payment of bribes to various officials. This enables certain individuals to move to the front of the refugee resettlement line, including possible terrorists. She commented, “It bothers me a lot that the US government gives a lot of money to these organizations. These programs were suspended because of the security flaws. Imagine a terrorist attempting to come through this way.” Burcell also stated, along with the national security implications, she wanted to show the despair “where multi-generations of people have lived in the camp all of their lives. They come to know these camps as their homes where they must endure such abuses as human trafficking and prostitution.”

Besides a riveting and intense plot these books have characters that are likeable and insightful. Other characters include Fitzpatrick’s FBI partner, Tony Carillo; Zachary Griffin, a CIA type operative and possibly her future lover; his sidekick, James Tex Dalton, and scientists Dr. Lisette Perrault and Marc di Luca. Burcell uses her earlier expertise of writing romance novels to enhance the characters who are brought to life very vividly. She noted, “I did it so the reader would root for these people. I wanted to paint more of a positive picture that adds depth to the character and creates some romantic tension.”

Could Sydney be her alter ego? She responded, “If I were born in an alternate universe, where I wasn't married, and didn't have kids, and could run around and save the world, then yes--she's my alter ego. I always thought being in the FBI would be cool, much cooler than being a cop. But there's something to be said for settling down in one area and not having to move every four years like one must in the FBI. I wanted to be a secret agent when I was a kid. Do you remember the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series? There was a short-lived Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Sydney gets to do the cool stuff I couldn't do because I like being a mom and living in one location, but she does it with my moral compass, for the most part. I definitely use my experiences when it comes to the forensic art, and of course if there's any sort of investigating. But the saving the world part is totally made up.”

She stated that she has been dreaming about writing ever since the age of ten. Her biggest influence was her grandfather, Al Santoro, known as “The Senor,” a Los Angeles sports writer. After dinner he would read stories to them from authors like Hemingway.

The Dark Hour and The Black List have fascinating plots that relate to national security, are very well paced, and realistic. The characters are likeable and relatable. The twists and turns in the books will keep the reader guessing until the very end. Anyone that wants action-packed stories that are fast paced should definitely read these books.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Face of a Killer, #1
The Bone Chamber # 2


Reviewed 2013