I want to preface this review with saying this is THE book I’ve been looking forward to reading for the past year/since the author, Kara Thomas, hinted at it via a tweet (I believe the tweet compared it to Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, which I was reading (& loving) at the time). Luckily, I received a copy at ALA Midwinter. Because I work in publishing, I rarely review books on my blog anymore (my opinions are my own…see below for the full disclaimer*), but when I was asked to share my review for the blog tour, I couldn’t say no.
Now some of you will remember how much I LOVE Thomas’s Prep School Confidential books (read my review of Book One). I have been championing those books ever since. I’m happy to officially announce I’ve found my new favorite mystery/thriller book, because truly the only thing better than a mystery set at a boarding school is one set in a small town. Kara, I will read anything you write (yes, even your grocery lists. LOL).
The story doesn’t open where everything begins… this is a mystery, after all. In fact, it began ten years prior, when Callie and Tessa (POV character) testify to seeing Wyatt Stokes murder Lori, Callie’s cousin. Thus, the Ohio River Monster is caught, or so everyone thinks (mwahahaha…sorry, couldn’t help myself). Callie and Tessa haven’t spoken since. That is until Tessa returns to Fayette, Pennsylvania to say final goodbyes to her father who’s serving life in prison but also dying of stage-four cancer. Tessa had been living with her grandmother in Florida, which, according to Tessa is where “people move to die,” of course, as she later says, “there are worst places” (aka Fayette). Callie has basically become a functional alcoholic / party girl as a way of suppressing what she saw on that horrible night (10 years ago). So from the first few pages in you know there’s a lot unsaid and to be unraveled (secrets, secrets, make this book very fun). I don’t want to say too much, plot-wise, because spoilers are no fun (of course, this book is so twisty, and full of red herrings it probably wouldn’t matter).
Below are a few (non-spoiler) plot points I loved and some questions I had as a result. However, if you’d prefer to go into this book only knowing what’s on the inside flap, skip this bulleted list:
- Tessa’s mother…she’s actually still alive…so why was Tessa with her grandmother? Where is her mom?
- Tessa’s sister? Also still alive (because she visited their dad) but where is she…?
- There’s another murder like the ones 10 years ago, so are Tessa and Callie hiding something? If so, what?
Hella twisty. And, I LOVED it.
Because I’m also a writer and editor-in-training (editorial assistant, LOL) I can’t help but evaluate books on their prose as well as plot. And, Thomas, she has skills… With a mystery/thriller, the plot must be tightly wound. But what I frequently see is an amazing plot with meh characters. For me, character and voice are everything. During revisions you can add in more twists, but if the voice falls flat, if the characters are generic, that’s trickier. THE DARKEST CORNERS has it all.
Fayette is a small town (<3 small towns / communities because I basically grew up in one). Each character you meet is so finely crafted. The woman she meets at the airport oozes personality…Callie’s mom, that woman is suppressing some major stuff. I love the way Thomas “logline” introduces each character, giving the reader something to remember about each one. (This is so important in solving the mystery… haha, or is it?)
The town itself is a character. Fayette holds many secrets. As a result it holds the characters hostage. Like Tessa says, not many people leave… everyone is trying to forget the town’s dark past while at the same time trying to keep the town running.
Everything is so interconnected, every fact is important, until, suddenly, it’s not, and, like me, you reach the end and you’re like, “WTH, KARA!”
Book dropped. Mind blown. I definitely scared the man sitting next to me on the subway.
I will auto-buy anything you ever write.
P.S. my mind is still reeling
Or, enter my giveaway for a copy of THE DARKEST CORNERS. It’s domestic only and you can have it by Tuesday, April 19th. However, I can also get it signed and personalized for you (I’ll email you this information if you win, but, should you choose this option, you’ll have to wait an additional week (as I’ll be mailing it after the book’s launch party, on the 19th).
Thank you, Random House/Delacorte Press, for this amazing read.
*This is a 100% honest review, I received a copy of the book from the publisher (thank you, again!).
About the Author
Kara is the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, coming April 2016 from Random House/Delacorte. She is also the author of the Prep School Confidential series from St. Martin’s Griffin under the pen name Kara Taylor. Kara has written for Warner Brothers Television and currently writes full-time on Long Island, where she lives with her husband and rescue cat.