Setting the Modern Noir Scene in “Here in the Dark” – Chicago Review of Books


In her debut novel, Here in the Dark, prize-winning culture reporter and theater critic for the New York Times Alexis Soloski crafts a psychological thriller around Vivian Parry, a Manhattan-based theater critic notorious for her acerbic reviews and her predilection for mixing sex, booze, and pills to quell the anxiety and grief she feels from the loss of her mother.

Without any other family or many close friends, Vivian is 32 and still a junior critic, a title she’s held for a decade at the respected magazine where her boss, Roger, kindly—though with increasing difficulty—keeps her on. Determined to ascend to the role of senior critic, Vivian begrudgingly accepts an invitation from a grad student, David Adler, who wishes to interview her for his thesis. The interview comes with the invitation to be on a panel, and this double act of (positive) community engagement, Vivian believes, will help secure her promotion.

Vivian meets with David, but something is off about him, and his questions and his knowledge of her past leave Vivian feeling unsettled. Then, David disappears, and his fiancée, Irina, tracks Vivian down, pleading for her help in finding him. Vivian was the last person to see David, and Irina, whose father appears to be a Russian mobster who perhaps wasn’t thrilled about the impending nuptials, suspects foul play.

Quickly, Vivian becomes obsessed with the search; there’s something intoxicating about merging into a stranger’s life in this way, an immersive experience unlike any other she can find in theater. Even when she receives warnings slipped under her apartment door to abandon her search, even when a real dead body is found, even when her personal life descends further into chaos, Vivian pushes forward—because of course, she knows so well, the show must go on, to whatever conclusion.

It’s tempting, as a reviewer, to want to be especially critical of Here in the Dark, to take a shot, as it were, of (and at) Vivian Parry—to try on her character and respond to this book as she might. Perhaps Vivian would be typically brutal, call the story “juvenile” and “derivative.” Perhaps, for comfort, she’d chase a sleeping pill with a vodka on the rocks and long for storytelling from long ago. But not me. As I sip on herbal tea, which moments ago I used to help swallow a handful of organic, gluten-free vitamins, I marvel at how Soloski has created a consistent yet multifaceted protagonist I don’t relate to or like, yet nonetheless cared and cheered for. 

“You go to that manicure place like I told you? You start to practice some self-care?” asks one of Vivian’s colleagues. Vivian responds: “Sure…I had them put your picture on both middle fingers.” 

Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in New York, or because I’m on social media, but somehow the story seems entirely plausible. Then there’s the geography-neutral and timeless reminder that we all live in a surveillance world—which is to say, as Shakespeare knew even back in his day, all the world’s a stage. We all have roles, sometimes more than one at a time—and simultaneously, we’re all watching each other.

“In the city, everyone performs,” Vivian narrates. “Excepting the very rich and the very crazy, a person can’t just walk Manhattan’s grid as some gaping maw of need and id. Urban life demands a veneer, a pose.” 

Soloski smoothly transfers her masterful journalistic writing to this novel, creating a classic yet entirely modern noir. Fast-paced, funny, sexy, and witty, Here in the Dark is a satisfying read to the very last word. 


See Also

Here in the Dark

by Alexis Soloski

Flatiron Books

Published on December 5, 2023

Monika Dziamka

Monika Dziamka is a Polish-American writer and editor living in her hometown of Albuquerque, NM. Visit her at


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