For a change, there is never anything supernaturally suspected in this novel, nor do we have the huge, rambling Victorian house. There's of course the trademark cat that gets in the way, coupled with typical character humor. It's almost more of a Elizabeth Peters mystery than a Barbara Michaels one, so don't go in expecting the typical. Instead Michaels seemed to want to focus the energy she usually spends on ghosts in mansions on the mystery of old jewelery. Not as fun to me, but still a worthy venture. She seems to have either thoroughly done the needed research, or else has knowledge about jewelry as much as she does houses, cats, the supernatural, and Egypt. You will know more on old jewelry and rose gardening by the time the book is through, yet thankfully it's not given in a preachy manner, and only a need-to-know basis.
Blessed with a fiery, feisty, conscience-plagued heroine, the mixing pot of people was fun as always. Meg's nasty temper and sharp tongue seemed lovingly adored by her hysterical relative Cliff, while her softened attitude never seemed to ruffle the mysterious partner, Riley. The grandmother was an enjoyment to read about, too, as her eccentric personality brought a smile to my face.
Into the Darkness is blessed with an array of background characters, many not what they seem. Meg's background and relationships were far from socially normal, which was a surprise. It's refreshing to read about a flawed character since it makes them seem more real. There's the touch of personal tragedy involved that was just sad, and that's how the novel opens. With a horrendous memory no child should go through, let alone remember so many details of.
Mystery wise, it's a rich one I sadly guessed before the novel was through. It was tightly woven, though, so many may not gauge the culprit. I just used the ol'Agatha Christie trick of guessing who it was least likely to be. The pace is pretty swift and it was hard to grow bored, and for once Michaels concentrated more on romantic build-up. This was a blessing and there was actually - gasp! - some sexual hints. Truthfully I wasn't entirely sure who she'd end up with, and I would have been happy no matter which she chose. Never has she indulged in subtle kissing or mild erotic thoughts freely, which is a shame for perverted readers like yours truly.
It's an enjoyable book but, again, don't go in expecting the typical gothic, fog-enshrouding tale. Instead read it for what it is - a light mystery with cute characters, a strong heroine, and a plaguing history. The story just wasn't as interesting as most of her other stuff, without the layers of detail and deception. I admit liking her other themes more, but this one's still a keeper.