Revenge–and the possibility of redemption–are parallel themes of Dark Things I Adore, the ambitious, carefully crafted debut thriller by Katie Lattari.
After an introduction to promising young artist Audra, and her university instructor, mentor and would-be lover, Max, we hit the road. Audra is taking Max to her family’s cabin in Maine, ostensibly to show him the series of pieces that comprise her master’s thesis. En route, Max becomes uncomfortable despite the lush, green surroundings. As the car climbs a hill, affording a breathtaking view below, he recognizes a lake. “I feel like I’m inside a dream,” he tells himself, “but I can’t tell if it’s mine or somebody else’s.” As their drive continues he realizes he’s returning to a place he swore he’d never come back to.
Audra slyly takes note of his expressions and body language–but is herself caught off guard when, at a trading post shop, Max buys a knife. Watching the purchase, Audra begins to sweat.
Their getaway, detailed in chapters in each of their voices, becomes intertwined with flashbacks going back 30 years, involving a funky arts collective in the nearby valley. The various participants are all known by nicknames, but it doesn’t take long to recognize a particular talented artist, one who utilizes the pain of his female associates–a trait he will carry with him in the creation of his work.
Along with dual timelines and shifting voices, Lattari has threaded her book with sections devoted to Audra’s thesis, which is fraught with anger. There are descriptions of the mixed media canvases, which have accompanying poetry and other writings, some of them vintage.
All this makes for a tricky balancing act that tests the reader. Moreover, though Lattari has arduously layered her psychological mystery, not everyone will be pleased with the journey’s ultimate amoral destination. In fact, they may opt to cut the trip short, without so much as a souvenir.