Treasure of Darkness by S.W. Hubbard looks into the challenging world of mental illness, in this case compulsive hoarding, as Audrey Nealon, owner of the estate sale agency Another Man’s Treasure, takes on a big challenge to clean out the house of a man with serious mental illnesses, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding that comes out of his fear of throwing away anything that could possibly be useful.
The book opens with Audrey’s concluding an estate sale, only to be confronted by the daughter of the deceased, who has discovered that her father had hoarded $100 bills in soup cans that he had soldered shut. The problem? Ty, Audrey’s assistant, has given the extra soup cans to the day laborer who has been helping him with delivering the unsold items to charities, leaving Audrey responsible for up to $150,000. When Ty and Audrey track down the day laborer, they find a young teen, stabbed to death, and see the killer look them in the eyes as he gets away. Because Audrey is legally responsible for the money, she is forced to take the job helping Harold, the hoarder, make his home fit the fire code so that it can’t be torn down, as the neighbors desire.
It is really Audrey’s other assistant, Jill, who shows the strong determination to do everything she can to assist Harold. Audrey is surprised to learn that he holds a degree from MIT and owns engineering patents. He held important jobs before his PTSD from Vietnam and other experiences in his jobs around the world caused his other mental illnesses to kick in. Each room is devoted to a particular type of item, so one room holds bird items, another electronics, and yet another buttons and other clasps. The goal is to work their way to the master bathroom, where the Civil War items are, including a valuable letter that will cover the costs of their work.
Audrey deals with being harassed by neighbors angry at her efforts to keep the house from being torn down, while also finding herself being followed by a thug who threatens her. We also see her deal with her personal life, as the cop she met in the previous book, Sean Coughlan, tries to court her, leaving her full of questions about her feelings, especially since her own family consists of herself and her father, while Sean comes from a very large Irish family that rather alarms Audrey.
This book is a great example of how mystery books do not have to be seen as pure fluff or pleasure reading devoid of solid content. It presents a fascinating mystery, while also dealing with issues of substance that cause us readers to face the reality of mental illness and our weak laws that do not do much to help those with such problems when they are not seen as a danger.
I enjoyed the audio version, narrated by Janelle Tedesco. She kept me listening avidly to this book, which already was written so well as to drag me into the book.
Treasure of Darkness is an excellent book that I was really drawn to and enjoyed a lot. I liked the way the book has many creative twists that kept me guessing, along with real substance to its messages. I can’t wait for the third book to come out on audio and give this book five stars.
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