Dark Arts is the second book in the Personal Effects series.
Zach Taylor is assigned to the blind Serial Killer suspect Martin Grace in order to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Grace is implicated in twelve brutal murders, many of which he described to the victims in detail days beforehand. Grace says that he simply "saw" the deaths beforehand and that they were really carried out by the "Dark Man" stalking him. The murders ceased after the onset of his psychosomatic blindness.
Dark Arts provides examples of the following tropes:
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Describing to your victim, in detail, how you are going to kill them and then doing it.
- The Commissioner Gordon: Zach's boss regularly runs interference for him in the book.
- Continuity Nod: The novel starts with people congratulating Zach for events in the previous book.
- Evil Phone: Inverted, since the call from the dead Sophronia Poole helps Zach.
- Imaginary Enemy: The "Dark Man" Grace claims is stalking him sounds like this but he's no harmless delusion.
- Kill the Cutie: Emilio. After the Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! moment, Emilio starts freaking out and proceeds to headbutt the wall until his skull caves in. That's when Zach starts to clue into the fact that the "Dark Man" is Not So Harmless.
- Mysterious Past: As Zach and friends try to find out more about Grace, they find out that his background is faked.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When Zach finally manages to get a breakthrough with Grace by showing him how he might be innocent, Grace is at first euphoric, then starts freaking out because the Dark Man's here, and he's showing him how Zach and everyone he loves are Marked to Die for being nice to Grace. Then Emilio the orderly comes in and also gets cursed, causing the Kill the Cutie moment.
- Nightmare Sequence:
- The Dark Man showing Grace how Zach and everyone else are marked for death. It's a gruesome sight.
- Zack's flashback to the many horrible deaths in his life.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Zach's flashback to his mom's death, all the murder cases that get described, even Zach's dream of his girlfriend's death. There is one graphic male death, but it was self inflicted and not nearly as squicky as most of the female deaths. Being female seems to greatly increase your chances of being gorily murdered in this book.
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The Dark Man is one of these; a mysterious phantom that emerges from the shadows to kill people.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Martin Grace's excuse from the murders is madness. There's also the page quote.