Darkness For Light is Emma Viskic's third novel featuring her profoundly deaf, private detective, Caleb Zelic. Viskic won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction for Resurrection Bay. It also won three Davitt Awards and was iBooks Australia's Crime Novel of the Year. Its sequel, And Fire Came Down, won the 2018 Davitt Award for Best Novel.
At the beginning of Darkness For Light, Caleb is avoiding work that signals danger, as a result of the tragic circumstances at the end of And Fire Came Down. "He only took safe jobs now - employee checks and embezzlement cases, security advice - nothing that could bring fear and violence back into his life." His relationship with his estranged wife is improving and she is pregnant with their child after a series of miscarriages.
But his past is ready to interfere in his plans for a quiet life in the shape of both Imogen Blain, Senior Constable with the AFP and Frankie, his ex-partner, whose treachery and drug addiction almost cost Caleb his life.
The novel begins when a prospective client is shot dead and the detectives who question him turn out to be AFP. Caleb wonders why "Federal cops [are] interested in a state crime. And cops not eager to share their names". Life becomes complicated when Imogen Blain tells him he has two days to find Frankie or the documents she is holding. If not she'll have him arrested for the murder of a man he shot dead on a beach in self-defence. Eventually Frankie finds him and what follows is a complex, often violent story of greed and treachery involving money laundering, a corrupt police force and judiciary, set against a vividly depicted Melbourne, Viskic's home town.
Thus, Caleb, runs along the Yarra, with " the smells of warming earth and lemon scented gums, the sky a smudged grey above the trees . . . the water . . . a quicksilver glint as it skimmed the rocks just beneath the surface." While Frankie's sister Maggie lives in " a money-kissed suburb . . . Victorian mansions and gleaming cars, dress stores containing three items of clothing, all grey".
Viskic explores the problems for the deaf in society, through both people's reactions to Caleb, ranging from patronising pity to asking ridiculous questions about seeing eye dogs, as well as a subplot involving a deaf family running a bakery and café staffed entirely by the deaf.
Although Caleb considers himself a" destroyer" of the lives of those he loves, in fact he is a true hero; brave, resilient and selfless in his pursuit of truth, risking his own life to protect others while constantly overcoming his physical difficulties. The dramatic conclusion to the novel promises there will be light at the end of the darkness for Caleb.
- Darkness for Light, by Emma Viskic. Echo. $29.99.