New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards continues her penchant for “fantastic storytelling” (RT Book Reviews) with this next heart-pumping romantic suspense novel, the tale of a brilliant ornithologist trapped on the remote Attu Island in Alaska, fighting for her life—and that of a handsome stranger—before they’re swallowed up in darkness forever.
BOOM. That’s the sound that changes everything for Dr. Gina Sullivan, a renowned ornithologist on a group research grant trip on the remote island of Attu, Alaska. When an everyday outing turns sinister at the onset of one of Attu’s infamous storms, Gina expects thunder and lightning—but what she doesn’t see coming is the small jet plane that drops out of the sky and into the water mere feet from her boat. Even more unprecedented: there’s a sole survivor from the crash, and he needs Gina’s help. But it turns out that rescuing the stranger and getting them both out of the oncoming storm is just the beginning. Because the more Gina learns about James “Cal” Callahan, he of brooding eyes and muscled frame, the more she fears—for herself, and for him.
Cal has made a career of trading on government secrets and emerging unscathed—until a routine pickup goes horribly wrong and lands him in ice-cold water. Literally. He knows the plane crash was no accident and that there could very well be an enemy force currently combing the Alaskan island ensuring there were no survivors. Now if only the arrestingly beautiful bird-watcher with the clear-blue gaze would stop watching him, well, like a hawk. Cal convinces Gina to return to base camp and help him covertly get off the island. But when Gina makes it safely back to camp and finds her entire team murdered, all bets are off, and as darkness envelops the island, she must decide: trust a man she barely knows, or go it alone and risk running straight into the arms of a killer?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Karen Robards is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than fifty books and one novella. Karen published her first novel at age twenty-four and has won multiple awards throughout her career, including six Silver Pens for favorite author. Karen was described by The Daily Mail as “one of the most reliable thriller...writers in the world.” She is the mother of three boys and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
Read an Excerpt
It was an ordinary flight, on an ordinary day, full of ordinary people.
Until it wasn’t.
“Eww, gross.” Nine-year-old Elijah Samuels jabbed an elbow into the ribs of his thirteen-year-old sister, Abigail, and pointed at the couple kissing in front of them. Blue-eyed, blond-haired Lije, as he was called, was sturdy and tan from three weeks spent hitting the beach with his accountant father, who’d moved to Burbank after his divorce from the children’s mother the previous summer. Abby was sturdy and tan, too, with sunny streaks in her long, brown braid and a pair of gold studs in her newly pierced ears, a dad-authorized act that she was afraid her mom was going to freak out over. The siblings were near the end of what had been a long line of passengers waiting to hand over their boarding passes and walk down the ramp to take their seats on the Airbus A320. Flight 155 was scheduled to carry them from LAX to Washington Dulles, where their mother would meet them. It was a Saturday, and a new school year would begin on Monday.
“Don’t point,” Abby hissed under her breath, smacking her brother on the shoulder.
“Don’t hit,” Lije retorted, jerking away and making a face at her.
The kissing couple, Mia and Nate Smolski, broke apart as they reached the turnstile. Nate handed over his boarding pass as Mia looked around to smile at Abby and Lije, having clearly overheard their exchange. A radiant smile lit up her thin face and made the slim brunette briefly beautiful. A long-distance runner who had attended UCLA on a scholarship, she was twenty-three years old and a newly minted nurse. Nate was twenty-six, a salesman for his uncle’s car dealership. They’d gotten married the previous afternoon, and this flight was the first leg of their honeymoon. Mia followed her new husband on board, and Lije and Abby, still exchanging evil looks, followed them.
In line behind Lije and Abby were two businessmen, Don Miller and Gary Henderson. Both worked in the marketing department of a research and development company. They’d spent the week in Southern California pitching their company’s services to various clients, and were glad to be going home. Both were in their forties, both married with children.
The Garcia family of Alexandria, Virginia, boarded next: grandmother Rita, mom Haylie, dad Jason, and their two-year-old twin daughters, Gracie and Helen. Grandmother and Mom were each lugging a child, and Dad was carrying two car seats and what looked like four or five backpacks. All looked tired and harassed, except the children, who were asleep on the women’s respective shoulders.
Edward Thomas Jorgensen was behind the Garcias. A tall, fit man of thirty-nine, he was neatly dressed in a polo shirt and khakis and carried a briefcase. He was unmarried, childless, currently unemployed.
Nine more people boarded after Jorgensen, for a total of 243 passengers on board. The plane also carried twelve crew members.
Flight 155 took off twenty-eight minutes late at 12:58 p.m. Blue skies, perfect flying weather.
One hour and fifty minutes later, still enjoying perfect flying weather, the Airbus A320 slammed into the side of a mountain just outside of Denver.
There were no survivors.
No cause for the crash could be determined.
NOVEMBER, ONE YEAR LATER, KAZAKHSTAN
The private jet bumped over a narrow strip of pavement as it touched down. At the end of the little-used runway in a cleared area of forest a few miles outside of Aktau, Kazakhstan, a trio of covered military-style trucks pointing their headlights toward the taxiing plane provided the only illumination. It was dark, it was snowing furiously, and those trucks held one wayward American citizen and a whole bunch of rifle-toting members of the Kazakh Armed Forces.
None of those things were designed to make James “Cal” Callahan feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The plane executed a neat one-eighty as it reached the end of the runway, turning its nose back the way they’d come so that takeoff could happen quickly.
“Keep the engines running,” Cal directed the pilot, Tim Hendricks. Easing the jet to a halt, Hendricks nodded. A wiry six-two, Hendricks was, like Cal and Ezra Brown, the third member of their party, former Air Force Special Operations Command, also known as AFSOCs or, more commonly, Air Commandos.
“Think there’ll be trouble?” Ezra asked, following him to the door. Ezra was Cal’s backup, his second gun, and a friend. About Cal’s own height at six-four, Ezra was meatier, bald as an egg, and heavily tattooed, including a Celtic cross on his left cheek. Cal himself was more conventional looking, with neatly cut black hair, even features, and no tattoos. Despite the dark business suits that proclaimed their civilian status, they made a formidable-looking pair.
“Shouldn’t be, but you never know,” Cal said as the door opened and the stairs descended. “Let’s make this fast.”
The small leather satchel he carried as he stepped out into the biting cold held five million dollars’ worth of diamonds. They weren’t his diamonds, and it wasn’t his money that had bought them: it belonged to the CIA, or, more properly, the US government. But the US government didn’t pay ransom.
Unless it decided it wanted to. Then it employed private contractors like Cal to do the dirty work, thus keeping its official nose clean.
Ezra strode past him, taking up a position far enough to his right that even a spray of bullets couldn’t get them both at the same time. The missile launcher on his shoulder was aimed squarely at the trucks. The AK-47 slung on its strap over his shoulder was for stragglers if the missile launcher should prove less than one hundred percent effective.
Eyes narrowed against the blowing snow, Cal started walking toward the trucks.
He’d done a lot of things he didn’t want to do in his thirty-four years of life. One way or another, most of them had been for money.
Getting Rudy Delgado out of Kazakhstan was about to be one of them.
Rudy was a computer hacker. One of the best. Ten years before, under the cover of his legitimate day job as an IT specialist for the CIA, he’d gone into the system, found and publicly exposed dozens of clandestine operations that at that time had been under way in the Middle East, with the justification that he opposed the United States’ presence there. The public uproar had been enormous. The private backlash had cost serving officers their lives.
Having thus royally screwed the pooch, Rudy had fled the country, eventually winding up in Russia. In the years since, he’d continued working in IT, only for that country’s security services. It had been a sweet deal: Rudy did what the Russian government wanted, and they protected him from the Americans and let him live.
Only Rudy being Rudy, he’d gotten ambitious. He’d hacked his way into their classified files and started poking around.
The Russians being the Russians, they hadn’t liked that.
Nor had they liked what he’d found.
Rudy had fled again.
This time everybody and his mother was after him.
He’d wound up in Kazakhstan, where, via his specialty, the Internet, he dropped a bombshell on his former bosses at the CIA: he knew what had caused the crash of Flight 155 outside of Denver last year. He was prepared to trade the information, plus provide irrefutable proof of what he claimed, for a ride back to the States and a guarantee of immunity from prosecution once he got there.
His former bosses took the deal, but a complication arose. Rudy was arrested for some minor offense in Chapaev and wound up in the custody of the Kazakhstani government.
Which decided, clandestinely, to auction him off to the highest bidder.
The CIA won, and thus here Cal and company were.
Just another day at the office.
Three men emerged from the cab of the center truck and walked toward Cal. Two were tall and straight in their military uniforms. The third, the one in the middle, was short, round, bespectacled Rudy.
It was, in Cal’s opinion, a poor trade for five million dollars’ worth of diamonds, but what the US government did with its money wasn’t his call to make.
“Salaam.” Cal greeted the soldiers in their language, bowing his head in accordance with the custom. They nodded curtly. Not great believers in small talk, apparently, he observed to himself, which made them his kind of guys.
The soldier on the left held out his hand for the satchel. Cal handed it over. The soldier opened it up, thrust a gloved hand inside, rooted around. Apparently satisfied, he grunted, “Zhaksa,” which meant “good,” and closed the satchel back up again.
The soldier on the right, who’d had a hand wrapped around Rudy’s arm, thrust Rudy toward Cal. As Rudy stumbled forward, the soldiers turned around and left, striding swiftly back toward the trucks.
Cal grabbed Rudy’s arm in turn and started hustling him back toward the plane, which waited with steps down and engine running just ahead of them. The fuselage gleamed silver where the headlights struck it; the logo—a circle with two wavy lines under it—painted on the sides and tail gave it the look of a sleek corporate jet, which Cal supposed was the point.
The truth was he didn’t really give a damn about the plane’s aesthetics, especially not now—these crucial few seconds, where the Kazakhs had the diamonds and he, Ezra, and Rudy were still outside the jet, were the most likely time for an attack.
“You’re American?” Rudy gasped, breathless from the pace, as he looked up at Cal. Way up, because Rudy was maybe five-five. Beneath a red knit cap with a tassel at the crown, Rudy had scared-looking hazel eyes framed by wire-rimmed glasses, a big nose, a small mouth, and a round, pale face. Besides the cap, he was wearing a black fleece jacket zipped up to the neck, jeans, and sneakers. No backpack, no gear.
“You got proof of what you say happened to that plane? Because I want to see it,” was Cal’s reply. Cal had been offered a nice bonus on top of his fee if he made sure Rudy brought the promised “proof” with him. Of course, if Rudy couldn’t produce the proof, he’d still take Rudy back with him to the States. Rudy just might not like his reception at the other end.
“Yeah, sure. See?” Digging in his jeans pocket, Rudy came up with a small object that Cal had to squint at for a second before he recognized it: a flash drive.
Cal grunted and took the flash drive from Rudy, who looked like he wanted to protest but didn’t quite dare. Then they were at the plane steps. Shooing Rudy up the stairs, Cal glanced back at the trucks. They were still there at the end of the runway, still politely lighting up the pavement, waiting for their guests to leave.
“Easy enough,” Ezra said, coming up behind him.
“Seems like it,” Cal replied, and followed Rudy into the plane.
A few minutes later, they lifted off into what looked to be the start of a beautiful day.
Until it wasn’t.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A book full of suspense from the shot-down plane crashing into the sea with parts falling around Dr. Gina Sullivan in her Zodiac to the killers using tracking dogs to hunt down Gina and James (Cal) Callahan, the man Gina saved from the downed plane. Gina was an ornithologist studying birds on the Alaskan island and did not understand who these people were or what was going on. While she was attracted to Cal, she wasn’t really sure she could trust him especially when he refused to tell her anything. Cal didn’t tell her in order to keep her safe but he knew if they didn’t get off this island, they were both dead.
This was a great story. It grabs you from the first page and the pace stays fast. The plot line was well structured, the characters well developed, the chemistry potent and hot, A lot of fun!
The first 82 pages of this book take place in the water in a storm. It read like a Coast Guard survival manual. Very dull. The author sank us in the storm and never developed the plot nor the characters.
Fantastic! Will not disappoint. Thrilling and steamy.
At first I wasn't sure I'd like DARKNESS. I really, really didn't like the first few pages and hesitated reading any further. But I'm glad I did. That first scene helped me feel like I was a player within the story and made me more invested in the outcome. And, if I hadn't persevered, I would have missed a gripping and fast-paced thriller that kept me up half the night reading. The story revolves around the unlikely partnership of James 'Cal' Callahan, a 34-year-old former member of the Air Force Special Operations Command, and Dr. Gina Sullivan, a 28-year-old ornithologist and assistant professor of environmental studies at Stanford, and their efforts to safely escape Alaska's Attu Island in the Bering Sea. Cal is a private contractor on assignment for the CIA/U.S. government, escorting a rogue, former CIA, computer hacker back to the U.S. The hacker has discovered intelligence info on how a foreign entity caused a plane to crash near Denver a year before. On the way home from Kazakhstan, their plane is blown up over the Bering Sea, with Cal being the sole survivor. Gina is one of twelve scientists spending their Thanksgiving holiday conducting studies on pollution hazards to Attu Island, which was abandoned by U.S. and Japanese troops after WWII. While sitting in a motorized rubber boat watching a pair of rare white-tailed eagles soar away from her, and gauging how much time she has to get out of an approaching winter storm, she spots a low-flying plane moving erratically across the sky. The plane explodes and she desperately searches for survivors. On spotting Cal, she helps him into the boat, and they battle the choppy water and heavy snowstorm to get to some kind of shelter on shore. Thus begins a tense partnership to remain alive on a snow ravished island teeming with murder-minded terrorists. He is wary of her survivalist abilities and wonders if she's part of the group that blew up his plane. She's worried about his need to stay off the grid and thinks he's going to get her murdered. With such a rocky start, they find it hard to trust one another, but they utilize their complementary skills to stay alive and to get back to the mainland. The story picks up speed just a few pages in and continues at a rapid pace through to the end. The two main characters are three dimensional with flaws, prejudices and self-doubts. They also are smart and confident whenever their special knowledge is needed. The setting is almost a character in itself, as description of the landscape and interesting facts of what happened to Attu Island after WWII are scattered throughout the book. With an exciting, fast-paced plot, the narrative flows along seamlessly while Cal and Gina look for a way to escape their human predators and get off the island. If you like your books exciting, full of intrigue and with a dash of history, DARKNESS is the story for you. Clear off your schedule, because you'll want to read this smart thriller all the way to the end in one sitting. If You Like This Book, You Might Like: DR. CHARLOTTE STONE SERIES by Karen Robards, TEXAS RANGERS and MORGANS OF NASHVILLE SERIES by Mary Burton, TRACERS NOVELS by Laura Griffin, EVE DUNCAN SERIES by Iris Johansen * Read my other reviews on the Blue Moon Mystery Saloon blog. ** A e-copy was provided by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc. and Edelweiss for an honest review.
Gina is a professor studying birds on the island of Attu. She witnesses a plane crash. This is just not any plane crash! This is all about the murder of one of the plane’s passengers. When Gina finds a survivor, it turns her life around in more ways than one. I have been in a reading slump lately. Started several, just couldn’t finish. When this novel came in my XOXpert shipment, I knew this would be a great read to move me out of my slump. I have not read a Karen Robards novel in a long time. This was like visiting an old friend. This is the perfect beach read….it is set in on a COLD Alaska island called Attu. Perfect for a hot summer day!!! The setting is amazing. I did not realize Attu was the only place a WWII battle was fought on American soil. Of course, I had to google it. I really want to visit this place someday! Gina and Cal are at odds on many levels. They can argue with the best of them….then, as you can guess, they heat up the pages nicely. Gina takes no crap off of Cal! Makes the whole story very entertaining! Start to finish, this is a divine read. The setting, the characters and the chase reveal an absorbing story! I received this novel as part of the XOXperts.
Wow. Yet another book I am sad to finish. Excellent as always. I am a fan of Karen Robards. I will read anything she writes and don't need to read the blurb on the book to know I will enjoy it. In fact, I am not positive I ever read the description of what this one was about. I just dove right in. And I was not disappointed. Hard to say much about Darkness. There are so many twists and turns that there are a lot of places where a review could spoil a detail of the story. From the very beginning, you are hooked in the story, in wanting to know what is happening and why. I could relate to the characters. I liked Gina and could totally understand why she found herself attracted to Cal (what woman could resist him?) in spite of herself and her fears of who he was and whether or not he would harm her. I loved that, at the beginning, the strong, capable character was Gina. So often in romances where there is an Alpha male character, the female lead is a wallflower. Not Gina. She had it together, she was compassionate, intelligent, and rational. Impressively so, and always in a believable way. The romance was a slow burn, but you see not only sparks of this romance but Cal's sense of humor almost immediately. The writing is consistent, emotional, and has enough depth that you know you are reading a story about two people falling in love, not one about people who only have a connection because of an intense situation. This was, bottom line, a phenomenal, "stay up until 2am to finish" book. *****ARC provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for honest review*****
Dr. Gina Sullivan is a ornithologist who is studying the wildlife that live on an Attu island in Alaska, she is there on a group research grant trip, with her colleagues. While following a newly released eagle she finds herself caught in a storm, and witnessing a plane crash, and the moment she sees it go down the memories of her own crash hit her like a ton of bricks. While trying to fend off her haunting memories she forces herself to focus on helping the survivors, and finds that there is only one survivor, a handsome man named James MacArthur Callahan who prefers to go by "Cal." Right after rescuing Cal danger sets in, and Gina soon discovers that the seemingly innocent trip she had planned, is not going to happen, and it has now turned into a trip of survival! Having been a while since my last book by Ms. Robards, I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed reading her spine tingling stories, but after reading the first few paragraphs of this book I was quickly reminded of the literary treat her books provide! From the get go this read jumped out and grabbed my attention and continued to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole way through! The story line was inventive, the characters were well crafted and had great chemistry and it had the same thrilling action I have come to expect with her books!! Anytime you settle down to read a book by Ms. Robards you must first prepare yourself to be taken on a literary thrill ride and then you must always expect the unexpected, because she is the master at pulling out the last minute surprise! If you like thrilling mysteries with a splash or two of steamy romance, then you MUST add this one to your reading list, it is sure to satisfy all of your reading needs and then some!! ARC requested through NetGalley and kindly provided by Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.