Author: Anthony Di Angelo
Genre: Crime/Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: 20 September 2020
Available As: Paperback, hardback, and e-book
A dark and harrowing psychological thriller. A twisted tale of murder and despair. When a killer begins his reign of terror over the city, two broken detectives must overcome their demons to stop the death toll from rising. But nothing is what it seems.
Descent into the Hallway of Madness is an intense psychological crime thriller that divides its narrative between three third-person perspectives: star detective Jonathan Davis, his troubled partner Selena Lopez, and a twisted killer known only (and sporadically) as “The Shadow”. All three operate in the fictional Californian city of Lugar De Paz and engage in an intricate cat and mouse game full of twists, murder, sex, and betrayal.
Our primary protagonist and narrative perspective is John, a decorated and successful detective who has a reputation for being meticulous, methodical, and being able to place himself in the shoes and mindset of killers in order to deconstruct crime scenes and solve seemingly impossible crimes. Thanks to his ties to a known crime family, John is disliked and distrusted by Captain Thomas McGee despite his vaulted reputation as a manhunter and begins the story in a very dark place. Having split up with his ex-wife, John has taken to engaging in meaningless and increasingly violent sexual trysts with prostitutes and has been forced by McGee to have regular consultations with a psychotherapist whom he finds himself uncomfortably sexually attracted to.
The book also begins with John finally solving a very personal case; prior to the start of the story, Selena’s young daughter Anna-Maria was kidnapped, raped, and murderer and John has finally apprehended the prime suspect. Sadly, for Selena, the damage has been done; her marriage fell apart as quickly as her mental state as she turned to booze and random hook-ups in an effort to dull the pain of losing her daughter. Once deemed a prodigy, Selena has fallen so far from grace that even McGee views her with a mixture of pity and disgust and urges her to turn her situation around and come back to work so she can continue contributing to society. Vowing to ensure that what happened to her daughter never happens to anyone ever again, Selena struggles to overcome her vices and get back on the job, only to find that the once close relationship she shared with her partner has deteriorated.
Worse still, Selena begins to suspect that John purposely dragged out his investigation into Anna-Marie’s death and begins her own investigation into her daughter’s murder that suggests there is more to it than either of them though…or is she just being paranoid? This obviously takes her away from the current murder spree gripping Lugar De Paz, in which a mysterious killer targets women and subjects them to all kinds of unspeakable torture and violent sexual acts before murdering them, often in front of an unwilling audience, and leaves photographs of his crimes for the police to find. Having operated undetected for decades, the killer relishes the thrill of the chase and begins targeting star detective John, specifically calling him out at gruesome crime scenes and even targeting those closest to him in an effort to get under his skin. The author masks the killer’s true identity wonderfully and leaves a great many red herrings throughout the story to always keep you guessing; a series of twists and revelations mean that you end up suspecting anyone and everyone right up until the final dramatic revelation that completely turns the story on its head.
Crime thrillers aren’t really my sort of thing but Descent into the Hallway of Madness is anything but a procedural drama; instead, the author spices the text up with his three distinct points of view, liberal use of intense sexual scenes, and absolutely horrific depictions of torture and murder. Often, the Shadow’s crime scenes are discovered after the fact and the characters are left reacting to a nightmarish bloodbath but the author goes into great detail to tell us what the killer is doing and the pleasure he derives from it. The story also has an interesting wrinkle in John’s uncanny ability to relive the events of a crime in his mind; though this ability doesn’t get too much play, it goes a long way to showing how intuitive and capable the detective is. The titular hallway of madness comes into play later in the story in the form of a nightmare that haunts John as the investigation begins to spiral out of control and it ends up being quite harrowing when John’s rational, methodical demeanour completely gives way to a desperate panic to protect his loved one’s from this diabolical murderer.
Descent into the Hallway of Madness proved to be quite the gripping thriller. I found myself deeply invested in John’s investigation, Selena’s struggles for redemption and closure, and trying to figure out the killer’s identity. The book’s supporting characters aren’t exactly free from suspicion either and the author definitely leans towards wanting you to feel the same desperation and paranoia as John does and to suspect every character, no matter how major or minor, of being the elusive Shadow. The climax is suitably shocking and horrific but the book is bolstered by its sexual and graphic content; for me, this really helped to humanise the main characters and demonise the antagonist as a reprehensible and diabolical sadist but there’s plenty to like here for fans of murder mysteries and psychological crime thrillers so I would definitely recommend giving this a read some time.
If you’re interested in checking out Descent into the Hallway of Madness, and to learn more about Anthony Di Angelo and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.