Review: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel


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.

Junie Taggert and Izzy Logan have been found murdered in their local park, throats slit. The small town of Barren Springs is in shock: who would want to kill two 12 year old girls? No one wants to know more than Junie’s mama, Eve Taggert. Eve raised Junie as a single mother, and vowed to do a better job than her own mother did her and keep Junie safe. For the last 12 years Eve has done her best to live her life in the light, because of her daughter, but now that that light has been extinguished, the dark looks rather welcoming. And with her previous vow broken – of keeping her daughter safe – Eve now vows she’ll do whatever needs to be done to bring her daughter’s murderer to justice.

Well, buckle up fellow bookworms, because one of my most anticipated mysteries of 2020 has arrived and it was GREAT! I loved this book.

The Familiar Dark has an extremely powerful opening chapter. I’m not exaggerating: it guaranteed I’d be turning pages like being belted into a rollercoaster at the point of no return. My gut even did the 80ft drop.

This drew me right in, and I could see the events so vividly in my mind like a movie in my mind. I’d definitely recommend this as a book to read in one sitting, if I could redo my first read, that’s what I’d want to know.

The Taggert family was interesting, and Engel without a shadow of doubt created an ensemble of characters worthy of a compelling mystery. Shady cops, shady drug dealers, mousy people, violent people… they all contributed to a murky landscape of suspicion and threat.

The plot began to lose the momentum after five chapters in, but it was still very good.

Although, I have to address, I fully felt The Familiar Dark was slightly predictable, was a little repetitive about its theme of lower class lifestyles and also suffered pace issues here and there… but I honestly don’t care. I loved this book. It’s entire tone, plot etc. was great.

My biggest (and really only complaint) is I wish the climax had been darker. It really would have been a masterpiece – it would have entered the hall of best reads ever for me if the showdown with the killer had been more brutal.

A fantastic book perfect for fans of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and perfect for readers who love small town murder mysteries. I recommend this without hesitation, it’s such a page turner. Fully deserving of 5 stars!


Buy It Now

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
Published March 2020
Genre: mystery/thriller, crime drama


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