Indigo, a mosaic novel
By Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Mark Morris.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June 2017
Book supplied by publisher
Review by Ida Vega-Landow
This is the second book I’ve read that was written by a committee. The first one was “Naked Came The Stranger”, back in 1969, written by Penelope Ashe, which was a pseudonym for a group of twenty-four journalists led by Newsday columnist Mike McGrady. He wanted to write a book that was both deliberately terrible and contained a lot of sex, to illustrate the point that popular American literary culture had become mindlessly vulgar. McGrady was convinced that any book could succeed if enough sex was thrown in. He was right; the book became a bestseller. After the hoax was revealed, it sold even more copies. This proves that you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, according to H.L. Mencken, renowned author and cynic.
I don’t know what motivated the above authors to write this book, but I suspect it was the current popularity for superheroes which dominates our movies and TV shows. If you think Batman has a dark side (when did the Dark Knight become so dark, anyway?), wait till you meet Indigo. Nora Hesper, investigative reporter for the NYChronicle, is also a night walking vigilante named Indigo, who can wrap herself in shadow to become invisible and move from one place to another with the speed of light, or darkness. She can also form weapons out of the darkness, using them primarily against a murderous cult called the Children of Phonos, which abducts and sacrifices children for its own dark purposes. Her parents died at the hands of a vicious mugger when she was nineteen, leaving her a small fortune in insurance money that allowed her to travel around the world until she came to a mountaintop monastery in Nepal, where she learned strange magic from the mystical monks that allowed her to control the darkness. Or did she?
When she comes across the Children of Phonos, also called the Phonoi, in an abandoned warehouse in the Bronx, about to sacrifice their latest victim, she crashes the party as Indigo and slaughters them all. Too late to save the unfortunate victim, but the priestess of the cult, a rich bitch and a member of high society, as are most of the other cultists, lives long enough to gasp out some interesting information, ending with the words “It should’ve been…you.” That sends Nora on a dark journey of self-discovery, as she investigates her own background and finds that everything she thinks she remembers is a lie.
Without injecting too many spoilers, I can tell you that poor Nora has been deceived by herself and the people around her for most of her life. She qualifies as a schizophrenic for having three personalities living inside her frail frame; Nora, Indigo, and a murder demon named Damastes, who is the real source of her power over darkness. How he got trapped inside her is a long, sad story punctuated by violence, which will keep you up at night desperately turning the pages of this novel to see what happens next to our hapless heroine, whose false memories are based upon the comic books she used to read beneath the bedcovers to help her survive a chaotic, dysfunctional childhood.
Nora is forced to confront the fact that everything she believes in and loves best is a lie, even the best friend she confides in. The one true thing she can count on is her boyfriend Sam Loh, also a reporter for NYChronicle, who’s fascinated by Indigo and trying to find out whether she’s a hero or a villain for her willingness to slaughter the evil people who kidnap children for human sacrifice. Along the way she meets some unlikely allies who are also trying to overcome Damastes and his followers, as well as a rival demon trying to take Damastes’ place in the murder cult of the Phonoi.
There are some inconsistencies in the plot, like whole areas of Nora’s past left blank, why her parents got involved with the Phonoi, and so on. Aside from these small holes, the plot thickens nicely enough to keep you turning the pages until the end. Not a very happy ending, but a satisfying one, from my point of view, that ties up all the loose ends and keeps the authorities in the dark about the real reasons all these people connected with the Phonoi keep turning up dead. So if you’re looking for a different kind of superhero, one who’s more like the people who read about superheroes than a millionaire loner traumatized by his parents’ violent death, give Indigo a try.