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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

When All Light Fails

Series: Ryan Demarco #5

ISBN: 172822358X

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Publication Date: 08/03/21

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars ++

A new mystery from Randall Silvis, critically acclaimed master of crime fiction

When powerful men pull strings to get what they want... someone almost always ends up dead

There's not much that would convince retired police sergeant Ryan DeMarco to take on another private investigation case, but he can't refuse a nine-year-old Michigan girl begging for help finding her biological father. The road trip to the Upper Peninsula promises DeMarco and his partner, Jayme, a chance to heal from their last case, which ended in a traumatic brush with death for DeMarco. But things aren't as they first appear in the woods of Michigan, and the seemingly simple paternity investigation soon morphs into something deadly.

The deeper DeMarco, Jayme, and the rest of their team dig, the more ugly truths they reveal, all while doing their best to keep one member of their team, from falling prey to her own kind of darkness. This investigation just might be the most emotionally troubling one DeMarco and Jayme have yet encountered, for there are plenty of people who will do whatever it takes to shut them down before the truth comes to light.

Acclaimed author Randall Silvis expertly weaves a shocking tale of secrets and lies in When All Light Fails, a suspense-fueled mystery that will leave readers guessing until the very last page.


"Silvis delivers crisp action sequences, but most memorable are DeMarco's long, ruminative dirgressions that sum up the career of a complicated, honorable man. Readers will be sorry to see the last of him."

—Publishers Weekly

"A soulful, deeply felt story." — Kirkus Reviews

"[a] chilly suspense novel." ―The New York Times Sunday Book Review for Two Days Gone

"...a suspenseful, literary thriller that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished. A terrific choice for Dennis Lehane fans." ―Library Journal, Starred Review for Two Days Gone

"An absolute gem of literary suspense... told in a smooth, assured, and often haunting voice, Two Days Gone is a terrific read." ―Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead for Two Days Gone

Click on links below for my reviews.

Ryan DeMarco Mystery Series:

My Review

"WHEN ALL LIGHT FAILS is a literary work of art! Literary suspense fiction at its finest. What an epic way to end the spectacular Ryan DeMarco series. I LOVED THIS BOOK! My jaw dropped numerous times…full of suspense and twists. Your heart will break at the tragedy, but I loved the way it ended and found myself not wanting it to end. 5-stars +++ and one of the Top Books of 2021. Luminous and beautifully written. Utterly unputdownable!"

Acclaimed Author Randall Silvis returns following the intense, gripping Ryan DeMarco #4 cliffhanger (2020-No Woods So Dark as These), a triple homicide —with the explosive and satisfying finale (Ryan DeMarco #5) WHEN ALL LIGHT FAILS.

A devoted Silvis fan, no author successfully combines literary fiction + crime suspense, = highly entertaining literary thriller.

The action-packed book starts with Ryan DeMarco experiencing a "Near Death Experience." This life-changing moment will alter him in many ways. The author skillfully crafts this experience and feelings of fondness, love, remorse, melancholy, and longing. He comes away a different man.

Not only is Ryan concerned with the guilt of Trooper Flores, who risked her life and is now injured physically, helping to save him from the Khatri disaster, but he winds up helping her in many ways mentally due to this NDE.

Ryan and Jayme (his partner in crime) and love interest attempt to move past their losses with their adorable side-kick dog, Hero.

While Ryan is recuperating and Jayme is still trying to get over her miscarriage and almost losing Ryan, they swear they will not take on another case right now. What is next for them?

Jayme knows Ryan is different, even the little daily things. Ryan loves this second chance he was given. He is different. He now seems to be more patient and tender and even an enigmatic smile.

However, a highly emotional case falls in their lap, which involves a child, and Jayme cannot say no.

Judge Morrison comes to Ryan and Jayme with a request. He is now an older man in his early seventies.

The judge received a letter from a little girl Emma. She is nine years old, and her mom, Jennifer, is dying. She gives the address, phone, and wants to know if he may be her dad. However, what are their motives?

He wants to hire them to spy on them. You see, there was a little night years ago with the judge and his buddies on a fishing trip, at a bar, she was working, and you can put two and two together and now a daughter.

However, the judge says the other two men wish to remain anonymous since they are married. The judge's wife has died, and the other man is deceased. They are not sure which one is the father. (or do they know)?

They agree to take on the case. However, Jayme and Ryan begin watching the little girl and realize they are working for the wrong side. They decide they cannot work for the judge but will work for the girl pro bono.

Of course, Jayme falls hard for Emma, and she breaks her heart. They are poor and living in a small trailer. The grandmother is a drunk and mean. The little girl just wants a mother and father. Jayme has this void to fill after her recent miscarriage.

When the mom dies, she is left with the grandmother. Jayme stays in touch with her and invites her for a visit. All arrangements have been made, and then the unbelievable happens.

This, my friend, was a total shocker! The unexpected.

I had decided how the book would end, similar to Lisa Gardner's WHEN YOU SEE ME (if you have read, you know how it ends, and we fans are still waiting for the follow-up) with this motherless deaf girl.

In fact, Randall Silvis' Jayme reminds me a bit of Gardner's kick-ass Detective DD Warren. If you are a fan of her series, you will love Ryan DeMarco series. Also, there is Gardner's Flora Dane (and Silvis Dani Flores). Lots of connections.

OK, back to the novel. Randall Silvis dropped a bomb; I was not expecting it. I could not believe what direction this novel would then take. However, no worries, the story had a perfect ending; however, at the time, I could not see how. No way to stop reading. Full throttle ahead.

There is a double murder. Someone is hiding what occurred years ago and will stop at nothing to silence anyone they can. The question is who hired the killer, and how will they find him? Lots of clever investigating.

When powerful men try to hide their past, can they be stopped? Evil lurks around every corner.

"Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are."

Nerve-racking, emotional, gripping, and unputdownable! There were a few tears shed as well. Have some Kleenex ready.

"Good and evil, he thought. Positive and negative. The eternal struggle. Yet all of it good somehow. All of it positive. It was a difficult concept to grasp."

I loved the title! WHEN ALL LIGHT FAILS has much meaning and metaphors—if you have read previous books. (Hutson's first novel taken from a line in Faulkner's Light in August).

"Turn every loss into an even fiercer resolve."

Not only does the author know how to write exceptional gripping crime thrillers like a rock star, but Silvis also blends poetic lyrical prose with deep characterizations as he explores the depths of humanity from darkness to light, showcasing the inner souls and hearts.

A time of reflection: Furthermore, Ryan uses the experience of walking through the darkness to see the light and the bigger picture about life and God. He is helping others as they go through the dark valleys when otherwise they would be unreachable.

Ryan has grown so much as a man since the first book. Thank you, for allowing readers to be a part of this memorable journey.

The author introduces each of the six sections of the novel with quotes from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, both thought-provoking and evocative. Infused with the emotional storylines and enhanced the overall reading experience immensely. I enjoyed them so much I purchased the book. Plus always love the Van Morrison references.

Also, the poem The Path for Dani by Ryan was breathtaking! In addition, I always enjoy Silvis' Huston's book excerpts. Also, the poetry and reflections by Ryan to Jayme- priceless.

Nice to catch up with Ben Brinker, Vee, Bowen and wife, Boyd and Flores, and more stories from Thomas Hutson. We even got to visit Ten-Right Road.

The author wraps up the finale with some great news, love, healing, and memorable moments with friends. I will miss these characters and the series. Who knows, maybe we will see them again in the future. I would like that.

Reader friends, if you have not read Randall Silvis's books, you are missing out! Each book is unique, thought-provoking, and he masterfully crosses many genres with ease and precision.

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next! I will be anxiously awaiting.

A special thank you to Poisoned Pen/Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.

About the Author

Randall Silvis is the multi-genre author of twenty critically acclaimed novels, story collections, and a book of creative nonfiction named a Best of the Year book by the Toronto Globe & Mail. He was the first Pennsylvanian to win the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize (1984), and was chosen for that award by author Joyce Carol Oates. His work has been published in over a hundred editions in several languages.

Also a prize-winning playwright and produced screenwriter, Randall’s work has appeared on Best of the Year lists from the New York Times, the Toronto Globe & Mail,, Strand magazine, and the International Association of Crime Writers, and has been hailed as “masterful” not only by the New York Times Book Review but also by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Mystery Scene magazine, and several other review sources. His two novels from 2017, (Two Days Gone and Only the Rain) were Amazon #1 Bestsellers in Psychological Suspense.

Silvis has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, and was a two-time Hammett Prize finalist for literary excellence in the field of crime writing (for An Occasional Hell and Two Days Gone.) The recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Award, and six writing fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for his fiction, drama, and screenwriting, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1988, and in 2001 received the same honor from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 2007 IUP bestowed upon him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for “a sustained record of distinguished literary achievement.”







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