WE SANG IN THE DARK by Joe Hart

Eighteen years ago tragedy struck The Refuge cult in northern Minnesota. Forty people committed suicide and the entire compound burned to the ground. At just thirteen, Clare was the sole survivor found wandering miles from the encampment, hands blistered, memories of the horrific event wiped from her mind.

Now a sociology professor and liaison to the FBI specializing in cults, Clare has fought to put the past behind her. She has a successful career, a quiet home, and is deeply in love. But intrusive memories and fear of inheriting her cult-leader father’s mental illness threaten to strangle Clare’s budding life when she receives a call from the past. A call informing her a woman has been found claiming to be her sister Shanna—a sister she long thought dead.

Wracked with guilt but determined to prove herself to the sister she thought was lost, Clare returns to her hometown only to be stalked by a threatening stranger and haunted by hallucinations which seem all too real—hallucinations that plagued her father as well. Before long Clare begins to question what is real as the past overshadows the present and memories return that should’ve stayed forgotten.

The IndieMuse Review

We Sang In The Dark is a psychological thriller by author Joe Hart, and the first installment in a new series about its lead character, Clare Murdock. Religious cults have long captured our imaginations and this particular novel looks at the fallout affecting the high-functioning sole survivor of a mass-suicide event in a doomsday cult, and, in particular, her mental health as she struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), repressed and intrusive memories where dreams and reality become indiscernible. The third person narrative unfolds the story through the eyes of the main character, Clare, switching between the present events (which take place within a few weeks) and her past in the cult, through dreams and flashbacks.

We Sang in the Dark is well researched, and uses the premise of Clare being a sociology professor, with a specialism in cults, to give us an insight into their practices and psychology so that we can immerse ourselves in Clare’s psyche and get drawn into her struggles with reality, memories and seemingly supernatural forces.  Is it all in her mind?  Is she the victim of false memories?  Or is there more at play of a truly supernatural nature?

Suffering from PTSD, I felt that Hart’s portrayal of Clare, who is a very strong and intelligent female character, was very genuine, from her reactions, to her mental state and her coping mechanisms.  As well as her sense of guilt, which is a recurring theme.  The storyline involving her long-lost sister also felt plausible.

The writing was flowing, mixing atmospheric descriptions with sections of dialogue and developing the mystery and a nightmarish feeling.  You know a book is good when you don’t find yourself questioning details and dialogue —I just wanted to keep turning the pages and learning more.  Hart keeps you guessing and then hits you with unforeseen twists.  And, as I am writing this, I realize that this is one of the few books for which I don’t have any niggling issues or particular criticisms.

We Sang in the Dark doesn’t contain any excessive bad language, padded sex scenes, over-descriptive or gory violence, and nothing is there for shock value—every detail moves the story forward.  Be aware that it does include mass suicide involving children.

We Sang in the Dark is a strong opening to the Clare Murdock series and lays the foundations for Hart to explore wide ranging topics throughout the series and with the potential to span several genres.  I found his writing captivating and cannot wait to see where he will take Clare next.

FLORA BELLINI

Flora is an avid fan of horror, crime and has a fascination with serial killers and the human psyche. She has a wicked sense of humour, and has a particular interest in nutrition, law, politics, photography, the arts, and pizza. She is a little animal mad, rescuing cats from across the EU. Flora is always on the lookout to broaden her horizons, and is a mental health, and equalities champion.