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Dark Places

Dark Places

4.5 2
by Jonathan Evans

In a place so harsh that survivalis a struggle, one man has found the strength to kill ...

Paul Wood is a modern vagabond, a man who chooses to leave the comforts of San Francisco to spend months backpacking through some of the world's most challenging terrain: Cameroon, Indonesia, Nepal. While hiking in the Himalayas, Paul gets more of a rush than he


In a place so harsh that survivalis a struggle, one man has found the strength to kill ...

Paul Wood is a modern vagabond, a man who chooses to leave the comforts of San Francisco to spend months backpacking through some of the world's most challenging terrain: Cameroon, Indonesia, Nepal. While hiking in the Himalayas, Paul gets more of a rush than he bargained for when he finds the body of a murdered hiker, the victim mutilated in a way that Paul has witnessed once before, years ago and thousands of miles away.

To quell a scandal, the police rule the death a suicide and close the case. But Paul can't let it go. A man who has traveled through the thin air at the top of the world and across land mines in war zones, he is not easily discouraged. But his newest expedition will show him some of the darkest places imaginable, in both the terrain he navigates and the men he encounters. Finding the killer becomes Paul's new obsession — a journey that leads him dangerously close to the edge ... and maybe over it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this haunting suspense debut, Evans takes the reader on a page-turning adventure across five continents in search of a gruesome serial killer who has been targeting travelers in Third World nations. Paul Wood, a San Francisco computer programmer and rugged budget backpacker, is hiking in the Himalayas when he stumbles upon a mutilated corpse with a Swiss army knife plunged into each eye. This is a freakish coincidence: Paul discovered the body of his then girlfriend mysteriously murdered in much the same way two years before in remote central Africa. Finding that even more murders seem to fit the eerie pattern, he begins his own investigation with the help of a (poorly developed) Bosnian love interest named Talena. Eventually joined by his backpacking friends from the fateful trip through central Africa, he decides to take justice into his own hands. Entertaining (but totally implausible) plot twists will keep readers guessing through the book's bone-chilling buildup and brutal climax, while slangy, conversational prose will make it easy to fly through the pages. But secondary characters are often flat and unrealistic, and Paul's vigilante bravado and world-traveler cockiness won't be to everyone's taste. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (June) Forecast: Readers may not want to crack this in their dark youth hostel bunks, but budget travelers will recognize the world Evans paints and should respond well to his spooky, inventive tale. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Dark Places

By Evans, Jonathan

Dark Alley

ISBN: 0060594233

Chapter One


Remember, I told myself only minutes before we discovered the body, this was supposed to be fun.

I had thought I would enjoy carrying a heavy pack up fifteen thousand vertical feet of uneven stony trail. Now I was too miserable to laugh at my own idiocy. Every step prompted a jolt of pain from the infected blisters on both heels, and my brittle knees ached and popped like a sputtering motor. My pack straps had carved a pair of red furrows into my back, each one filigreed by an itchy fungal infection. I had a nagging headache, shortness of breath, and nausea, a textbook case of low-grade altitude sickness. But what really made the whole situation unbearable was my traveling companion's attitude.

"Isn't it fantastic?" Gavin said, as I trudged behind him. "It's just extraordinary. I've been looking at it for three days now and I never get bored of it."

The it in question was the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya, the glorious snowcapped mountains that surrounded us, and even in my irritable state I couldn't argue with his superlatives. Every time I looked around I felt like I had stepped into a fairy tale. But I would have preferred to appreciate its grandeur from the window of our lodge, preferably while eating momos and drinking an entire pot of lemon tea, rather than following Gavin to inspect the abandoned village. He had browbeaten me into coming with him, knowing that I didn't have the mental strength to argue. Probably thinking that I would thank him later.

I'll thank him with a two-by-four, I thought. I'll show him my gratitude with a ball-peen hammer. Even without my pack, which I had left back at the lodge, each motion felt like a sacrifice. Step, breathe, step, breathe, stop, breathe, repeat.

"Acute mountain sickness, my foot," Gavin said. "I feel fantastic. I've never felt better in my life. I think I'm suffering from acute mountain wellness."

"How nice for you," I muttered.

"Paul! Is that snow?"

I looked up from my feet. Gavin pointed excitedly at the shadow cast by a tall boulder, where a thin layer of the morning's frost had not yet thawed. He was from South Africa, and never in his well-traveled life had he seen snow up close. I was originally from Canada and found the idea of a snowless existence nearly incomprehensible.

"No," I said. "Sorry. Just frost."

"Oh. Pity."

We moved on. The abandoned village was located on a ridge that jutted out above the Marsyangdi river valley like a peninsula. A few dozen low, small buildings of dark roughhewn stones welded together by frozen mud. It seemed insane to me that people had lived up here. It seemed insane that anyone had ever even considered living up here. Not even the yaks came this high. Nothing grew but lichen, a few particularly stubborn strands of grass, and a thin knee-high layer of vicious thornbushes. The wind howled ceaselessly, numbing my exposed skin, and even with the sun at its midpoint I could still see my breath. And the effort required to quarry those hundred-pound stones, probably from the Marsyangdi riverbed far below, and bring them up to this godforsaken overlook -- mad, I thought, absolutely barking, as the Brits on the truck used to say.

Gavin hemmed and hawed over one of the buildings, inspecting its joints and shining his Maglite flashlight inside, while I stood behind and tried to catch my breath. I had been trying all day, and I was beginning to fear that it had gone for good.

"Imagine being born here," he said, and I tried but failed. Some cultural gaps are simply too wide to jump.

He led the way through the village. We must have gone right past the body without noticing it. For a little while we stood on the edge of the cliff, which dropped a hundred sheer feet before easing off a little and tumbling down to the dry riverbed a thousand feet below. By now we were accustomed to precipices. I had lost track of how many times during the previous week I had scrambled across steep drops on narrow and treacherous trails.

Eventually I grew bored of contemplating my own mortality and turned around, intending to return to our lodge. Then I saw him. A fellow backpacker, sitting with his back against one of the village buildings, facing us. Even from a hundred feet away and with the cold, dusty wind in my eyes I could tell there was something badly wrong with his face.

"Whoa," I said, and narrowly prevented myself from taking a fatal step backward in surprise. "What the hell?"

Gavin turned to look, and said, "Fucking hell."

We advanced without really thinking about it. About halfway there I realized that the man was dead. Not just dead. Killed. Unless he had thrust a pair of matching Swiss Army knives into his own eyes. The red handles protruded from his eye sockets like antennae.

The victim was tall, white, probably midtwenties, typical backpacker, wearing a blue jacket over a thick green sweater, jeans, and battered hiking boots. There wasn't much blood, but I could smell it in the air like iron. Most of it was pooled on top of his head, dark brown muck filling a dent so large and misshapen that his thick dark hair did not conceal it. The liquid congealed on his cheeks was pale, almost transparent.

Gavin muttered something astonished in Afrikaans. I looked around. Nobody there but the two of us and the cold wind and the mountains. We could see the trekking trail about half a mile away, and the two Gunsang lodges facing one another across it, but they seemed as deserted as this long-abandoned village.

I felt newly vibrant, energetic, ready for action. The sight of the dead man had cued adrenaline to wash through me like some kind of mythical cure-all ...


Excerpted from Dark Places by Evans, Jonathan Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Jon Evans has backpacked through China, Japan, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Guinea, India, Nepal, the Balkans, and, most recently, Iraq. Between journeys, he has worked for internet and software companies and now divides his time among America, Canada, and Europe.

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Dark Places 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dark Places is a novel of adventure and mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the whole book is finished. By introducing a new breed of serial killers, Jon Evans is able to draw us in to the dark corners of the human mind, and make us wonder just what we are capable of doing. The characters in this book are very realistic, and their reactions to certain problems will be very similar to our reactions if in the same position. This realism allows us to connect with those characters, and share their feelings throughout the book. Like in all books, there are lessons, and harsh realities. One of them would be that no matter who you are, you are never alone in predicament or personality. Another would be how the arm of law can only stretch so far, and unless we want justice done, we sometimes have to do the unthinkable.
harstan More than 1 year ago
San Francisco computer programmer Paul Wood enjoys backpacking in remote unreachable places around the globe. Currently he hikes the rough terrain of the Himalayas on the sustenance budget plan when he finds a mutilated corpse with Swiss army knives stabbed through each eye. Paul is more than shook at seeing the body as two years ago he and his girlfriend were in central Africa when she was murdered in the same macabre manner...................... Paul soon learns other people were killed with the same creepy modus operendi. Unable to ignore his preliminary findings Paul and his current girlfriend Bosnian Talena investigate. Other travelers from the central African tragedy join Paul when he decides to avenge the budget backpacking world by taking out a serial killer.................................... This entertaining but chilling thriller provides readers with a look at the backpacking community that reside in youth hostels or outside as they hike the planet. The story line hooks the readers with its twists and turns, albeit not all seem real, but no one will care. Paul is a terrific protagonist as he travels the orb although it is difficult to accept this gentle soul as a vengeful fighting machine. Still fans of dark suspense will appreciate this eerie tale as they hitch a ride with Jon Evans to extremely DARK PLACES................... Harriet Klausner