One of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2020 (Mystery/Thriller)
"From its gripping beginning to its sobering finale, Amy Engel's The Familiar Dark never fails to enthrall with surprising twists."–Associated Press
A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.
Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it's better not to know.
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.
The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family—women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances—as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home.
The stark prologue of this harrowing thriller from Engel (The Roanoke Girls) recounts the final moments of 12-year-old best friends Izzy Logan and Junie Taggert, slaughtered on an abandoned playground in their impoverished hometown in the Missouri Ozarks. Junie's single mom, Eve, a feisty, funny, sometimes foulmouthed diner waitress, is shattered by the news, but she swiftly becomes enraged by what she sees as a less than vigorous probe by the local police, including her idolized older brother, Cal, who she suspects may be writing off the murders as collateral damage from the meth ring run by their own abusive, long-estranged pit bull of a mother. Feeling she has nothing left to lose, a vengeance-bent Eve ignores Cal's warnings to leave investigating to the professionals and begins asking questions of dangerous people with plenty to hide. Without sacrificing any of the narrative's ferocious urgency, Engel gradually discloses a few of Eve's own guilty secrets on the way to some gut-wrenching final revelations. This rural noir stakes Engel's claim to that dystopian terrain somewhere between Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects and Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.