Running Dark is the second book in Jamie Freveletti’s action-mystery-thriller series featuring chemist and long-distance runner Emma Caldridge. The first book, Running from the Devil, establishes the character of Caldridge as a strong scientist with a flair for quick thinking and physical endurance in the worst of situations. Running from the Devil followed Caldridge as her commercial plane was hijacked and crashed in the Colombian rainforest; Caldridge managed to get away from the group of surviving passengers as they were rounded up and lead through the forest by a group of Colombian fighters playing the middlemen for a drug cartel, intent on ransoming the survivors at their destination.
Caldridge demonstrated her physical and mental endurance as well as her scientific knowledge of natural chemistry, as she carefully followed the group through the Colombian jungle, surviving first on the remains of increasingly-rancid airplane food and then native plants. The group walked several miles a day; as Caldridge followed, she often had to race ahead or double back to avoid detection, landmines, and another mysterious group who begins to track her path with the help of trained dogs.
Occasionally, crash survivors were killed by the Colombian fighters, or left for dead on the path. When the kidnappers realize that Cameron Sumner, a U.S. government agent, might threaten their plan for ransoming the survivors, they hurt him badly. Caldridge eventually stumbles upon him, helps him through infection and fever, and makes an ally in the process. Their dependence on one another for personal survival and professional secrecy established the core relationships at work in the next book in the series.
Following on the heels of Freveletti’s first thriller, Running Dark takes place in South Africa, Somalia, and on the high seas of the Gulf of Aden as Caldridge makes her way from an endurance race during which she survives a roadside bomb and injection by an unknown substance to a cruise ship in peril of being overrun by Somali pirates. On that cruise ship is Cameron Sumner, working for Darkview, a United States-based independent security firm.
The pirate strike is a surprise to Sumner and the crew; because weapons are illegal on cruise ships, they barely manage to stave off several attacks using Sumner’s smuggled gun and the help of several passengers and crew members. Meanwhile, no one but Caldridge and the Darkview team back in the U.S. know that amongst the cargo on the ship might be several vials of Sarin, a colorless, odorless, and very deadly chemical weapon. When Caldridge finally reaches the imperiled boat, Sumner and Calderidge work with the crew and passengers of the ship to fight the invasion and try to safely operate the ship despite the nearly-constant threat of chemical and conventional attacks.
As was Running from the Devil, Running Dark is fast-paced and filled with interesting details about the characters’ lives, work habits, and career-oriented knowledge. The chapter narratives move back and forth in point of view from the bad guys to the good guys, keeping the reader on her/ his toes and introducing new and dangerous scenarios every few pages. Running Dark is not as all-absorbing as is Running from the Devil, and unfortunately there are several chapters that feel as if they are marking time until the final climax. I highly recommend reading the first novel before the second in order to contextualize the relationships and understand the back story of the events and characters revisited in Running Dark; if you’re a fan of international thrillers and/ or layered female characters, give Freveletti’s Emma Caldridge a try in this series.