WELCOME TO A WORLD WHERE WOMEN HOLD THE POWER
They dominate workplaces, public spaces and government.
They are no longer afraid to cross a dark car park, catch the last train, or walk home alone.
With the Curfew law in place, all men are electronically tagged and must stay at home after 7pm. It changed things for the better.
A woman is murdered late at night and evidence suggests she knew her attacker.
It couldn’t have been a man because a Curfew tag is a solid alibi… Isn’t it?
Note: The US title is ‘Curfew‘ and is published by Berkley
- Publisher: Century / Penguin Random House
- Format: Ebook, Audio and Paperback (12 May 2022)
- Pages: 416
- Source: Review copy
The first thing to say about After Dark is that I was so engrossed in this story, I read almost the whole book in a day.
It’s a high concept crime thriller. Set in a time in the UK where any male over the age of 10 is fitted with an electronic tag and put under curfew between the hours of 7pm and 7am. This follows outrage when women were told to stay indoors for their own safety after the murders of four women some 16 years before and the passing of the Prevention of Femicide Act 2023, (the Curfew Law). Because of the curfew, men are restricted in the work they can do – distance and commute has to be considered, so roles with part time hours, childcare at home, etc are often now male occupations. Women have taken over the jobs of men. I did just have to go along with this idea because if I thought too much about it, I wondered how this would work. Would there be enough women to do the work of men, and not just during curfew hours. What about all the roles currently undertaken by males in so many institutions and industries? The world of relationships has completely changed with government intervention and Co-Hab certificates. The question of gender selection is also touched upon because daughters are favoured as opposed to having boys with the resultant life restrictions that follow.
The story is told from the perspective of three women, Sarah, Helen and Cass together with the senior police detective Pamela one of the team investigating the murder of a woman. Sarah, a tagger, has separated from her husband who is in prison for breaking curfew and both she and her daughter Cass have moved into ‘The Motherhouse’, an all female building where no men are allowed past the gate.
The fact that I found so many of the main characters so unlikeable didn’t matter in the slightest because I was so invested in the story and the outcomes. The only one I really had any time for was Pamela, the soon to retire detective, who struggled to make her voice heard amongst her colleagues. It become clear that Sarah had rather extreme views on men and wouldn’t have won any awards for mother of the year whilst her daughter Cass was a difficult, resentful and rather naïve nearly 18 year old teen. Helen was possibly the least reactionary of the three but seemed extremely gullible.
Until now women have been safe to go about their lives without fear but when a woman’s body is found in a park, it brings into question curfew and who could be responsible. If a man had committed the crime then surely his tag would give him away?
The author’s note at the end confirms that she wrote this in 2019 in the wake of #MeToo and she outlines her own personal reasons for writing such a book. Although the investigation obviously forms part of the story, it also focuses on these three women, their characters and choices and the concept of male tagging. I was kept guessing by the identity of both victim and killer as both are open to suspicion and interpretation until the truth is finally revealed.
I really enjoyed After Dark because it is different from the norm and the background story of female safety is so relevant. The pacing is spot on and I was kept totally interested throughout. It’s such a thought provoking debut that also brings into question political agendas and justice. Definitely recommended. This would make a superb book group choice, as there is so much here for discussion – aided by the book club questions at the back.
An avid reader and life-long writer, Jayne Cowie also enjoys digging in her garden and makes an excellent devil’s food cake. She lives near London with her family. You can find her on Instagram as @CowieJayne
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