Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.
This was a fast paced thriller, that was hard to put down, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I did read one of Engel’s other novels “The Roanoke Girls” and I did not enjoy it whatsoever, but I thought this book sounded interesting and I figured I would give her another shot. I’m really glad I did because this book was well worth the read and a very far cry from “The Roanoke Girls”. (You can read my review of that book here.)
The story centers around Eve, a mother who is trying to find her 12 year old child’s murderer. I thought the interesting aspect of this book was the fact that it takes place in the Missouri Ozarks and Eve travels through the town’s seedy underbelly and must confront some dark memories from her past in order to find the answers she seeks. It’s a story that I think we can all get behind, a grieving mother trying to get justice for her daughter, and even revenge. Because of this it’s easy to cheer Eve along, despite her character’s demons. It’s interesting to see a thriller that takes place in a small Midwestern town and deals with characters that live in poverty and are forced to adapt to difficult situations. It’s harsh but it’s real and I appreciated how raw and gritty the story was. That being said I have trigger warnings listed at the end of the review and there are a ton, pretty much every one you can think of. This definitely isn’t a story for the light of heart.
The writing is fantastic, like I said it kept me turning pages and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going on. There are plenty of twists and a lot of them I was pleased I didn’t see coming, it’s a very complex story line but it was still easy enough to follow. It’s 256 pages so it is fairly short, and it’s a wild, fast ride from beginning to end. I am not quite sure how I feel about the ending, it felt a little anti-climatic but at the same time I was satisfied enough with it.
I would say this is more character driven and thus the characters are also very complex, they’re also very morally ambiguous and dark. Eve is a badass but she’s far from perfect and that’s part of why I felt this book and her character were so real. The book isn’t afraid to show you the dark side of life and the human psyche. There are a string of intriguing characters along that way such as Eve’s abusive mother she does her best to avoid and Cal, her police officer brother. Each character added a bit more depth to the story and as complex as the emotions are and their relationships with Eve are, I did feel like I didn’t get to know them quite that well. There isn’t a lot of background or history with the characters and I would have loved to know a bit more about them.
What I Loved:
- Fast paced and well written.
- Plenty of twists, engaging plot.
- The setting: small Midwestern town.
- Dark, realistic situations and characters.
- Complex protagonist (who is also a badass).
What I Didn’t Love:
- Ending felt a little anti-climatic.
- Would have enjoyed a bit more background on certain secondary characters.
Overall I definitely recommend checking “The Familiar Dark” out if you’re looking for a dark thriller or a really fast read. It’s an engaging story that you can’t help but feel emotionally attached to at the same time, it’s worth the read.
Trigger Warnings: Child Death, Murder, Child Abuse, Pedophilia, Physical/Domestic Abuse, Drug & Alcohol Abuse
*** Huge thank you to Dutton Books for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****