Review: Wander in the Dark

Cover for Wander in the Dark. The cover is staged so it looks like a bright light is spilling in from the window and casting light and shadows on the floor. The floor is concrete and the room itself appears to be mid-construction with debris scattered about, and there are also bloody footprints near the center. In the distance, through the window, you can see a city skyline.

Cover for Wander in the Dark. The cover is staged so it looks like a bright light is spilling in from the window and casting light and shadows on the floor. The floor is concrete and the room itself appears to be mid-construction with debris scattered about, and there are also bloody footprints near the center. In the distance, through the window, you can see a city skyline.Title: Wander in the Dark
Author: Jumata Emill
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 400
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Review Copy: eARC provided via NetGalley
Availability: Available now

Summary: Amir Trudeau only goes to his half brother Marcel’s birthday party because of Chloe Danvers. Chloe is rich, and hot, and fits right into the perfect life Marcel inherited when their father left Amir’s mother to start a new family with Marcel’s mom. But Chloe is hot enough for Amir to forget that for one night.

Does she want to hook up? Or is she trying to meddle in the estranged brothers’ messy family drama? Amir can’t tell. He doesn’t know what Chloe wants from him when, in the final hours of Mardi Gras, she asks him to take her home and stay—her parents are away and she doesn’t want to be alone.

Amir never finds out, because when he wakes up, Chloe is dead—stabbed while he was passed out on the couch. And in no time, Amir becomes the only suspect. A Black teenager caught fleeing the scene of a rich white girl’s murder? All of New Orleans agrees: the case is open-and-shut.

Amir is innocent. He has a lawyer, but unless someone can figure out who really killed Chloe, things don’t look good for him. His number one ally? Marcel. Their relationship is messy, but Marcel knows that Amir isn’t a murderer—and maybe proving his innocence will repair the rift between them.

To find Chloe’s killer, Amir and Marcel need to dig into her secrets. And what they find is darker than either could have guessed. Parents will go to any lengths to protect their children, and in a city as old as New Orleans, the right family connections can bury even the ugliest truths.

Review: [Wander in the Dark prominently features discussion of systemic racism in the U.S. justice system and racist cyberbullying in a private high school, in addition to some brief but intense descriptions of violence, an infidelity subplot, and past animal death.]

A surefire sign that a mystery or thriller is hitting the way it should for me as a reader is just how worried I get about the characters. And let me tell you, I spent so much of Wander in the Dark extremely worried about Amir, Marcel, and their family. Author Jumata Emill really knows how to craft a fast-paced mystery, and I raced through the book because I desperately wanted to know what would happen next.

Amir and Marcel are great character foils for one another, and their contrasting narrative voices served to strengthen their respective plots and highlight the similarities they developed. Race and class/privilege shaped both Amir and Marcel, often in noticeably different ways, and their experiences influenced how they saw, related to, and interacted with the world. It made the gradual development of their sibling relationship immensely satisfying to read, especially the times when they united together against other people and in support of each other. I also appreciated how complicated their views of each other and the rest of their family were, especially how neither “side” was blameless in how the conflicts had played out.

Jumata Emill did a fantastic job of layering subplots into Wander in the Dark’s murder mystery. The different investigative paths Amir and Marcel went down as they tried to prove Amir’s innocence developed nicely and tied in to one another in unexpected ways. I never felt like the story was lagging or that a potential red herring was dragging out for too long, and while I had some nitpicks about how particular things played out, none of them were significant enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story. This is the kind of mystery that I would enjoy reading again specifically to spot more of the clues/foreshadowing the second time around.

Recommendation: Get it now if you enjoy mysteries. Jumata Emill’s Wander in the Dark is a fast-paced murder mystery that tackles complex families, systemic racism, intracommunity politics, corruption, and so much more. Amir and Marcel are fantastic narrators, and watching the two of them figure out how to be brothers while trying to clear Amir’s name is a great way to spend a weekend.

Extras: Book Talk: Five Questions with Jumata Emill

Author Interview – Jumata Emill