This really is a tale of two stories. The first half of the book, in which we meet John, is a quintessentially British story, that gently mocks the entrenched and stereotypical elements of British society and the class system. John is working as a cleaner at a block of flats in central London, where the average age of the other cleaners (porters) is late sixties and early seventies. The characters are very much caricatures of the time. There is the Dragon-Lady manager, who rules the roost and the Head Porter, Ben, who resents the young upstart, but who John has a real love/hate relationship with. I very much enjoyed this half of the book, with its verbal sparring and clever, at times almost overuse of literary devices designed to humour the reader. In some ways, when reading this part of the book, my mind kept harking to an old favourite television show of mine from Britain, called Black Books, starring Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey. The humour used in Darkest Kiss was very reminiscent, for me, of that series, quirky, dark and at times extremely clever.
The second half of the book, was very different as John related the weird, torrid and yet strangely compelling relationship between him and the love of his life Katharine. It is clear both John and Katharine had major personality issues that required addressing, but like moths to a flame, they were bound and drawn to each other, despite both knowing it was not good for either of them. At times, especially during this section, Finch's writing wandered off into some fairly esoteric and deep areas, but despite this, the study of two human beings and their inability to comnmunicate their needs to each other, became almost addictive, as a reader.
Darkest Kiss isn't for everyone. It is deep, thoughtful and designed to make you question the values you may hold, however as an expose of a particularly significant socialogical period in Great Britain, I did find it interesting and at times compelling. If its purpose was to make the reader think and examine his/her own relationships and attitudes to life and life's big questions, I can say it did succeed with this reader.
A solid four and a half stars from this reviewer and since I'm feeling generous to the author's intent in this story, I'll round that up to five.