DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD by Tami Hoag

DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Hoag's (Secrets to the Grave, 2010, etc.) latest literary suspense novel, Lauren Lawton, "ragged and torn and shredded," has retreated to bucolic Oak Knoll to heal.

The Lawtons lived the perfect life in nearby trendy Santa Barbara, and then their older daughter, Leslie, only 16, disappeared. It was certainly kidnapping, although no body was ever discovered. Lauren's husband couldn't recover from the tragedy and eventually died, apparently a suicide. Lauren always believed she knew who took Leslie, and her relentless pursuit of the shadowy Roland Ballencoa cost Lauren her social reputation and the support of the police. As the story moves to Oak Knoll, Hoag's regulars, Sheriff Detective Tony Mendez and retired FBI profiler Vince Leone and his wife Anne, a counselor, enter the narrative. Mendez begins an investigation, slowly coming to comprehend that Lauren isn't simply a woman mired in an unreconcilable past. Mendez learns that Ballencoa, a part-time photographer who has supposedly gone straight after serving time for a youthful sex crime, has followed Lauren to Oak Knoll. An intriguing new character in the familiar Hoag milieu is Santa Barbara police detective Danni Tanner, hard-bitten, cynical, sarcastic and totally dedicated. As Mendez probes deeper into Ballencoa's history and finds little solid evidence, Lauren relentlessly pushes for action, considers vigilantism and nears collapse because of guilt over her emotional neglect of younger daughter, Leah, now the same age as Leslie when kidnapped. With a shady private investigator named Gregory Hewitt as catalyst, the narrative ramps up to a gut-wrenching and violent conclusion, albeit one that leaves a minor plot point adrift. Hoag has an eye for a writerly turn of phrase—“another verse in a poem of futility”—which makes it all the more disconcerting to stumble upon a cliché or to find the author posing an analogy that compares both the bad guy's and the hero's gaze to that of a shark.

A mesmerizing psychological drama on loss, guilt, frustration and implacable, unexplainable evil.

Pub Date: Dec. 27th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95239-8
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2011




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Kirkus Interview
Tami Hoag
January 15, 2016

In Tami Hoag’s latest thriller The Bitter Season, as the dreary, bitter weather of late fall descends on Minneapolis, Detective Nikki Liska is restless. After moving to the cold case squad in order to spend more time with her sons, she misses the rush of pulling an all-nighter, the sense of urgency of hunting a murderer on the loose. Most of all she misses her old partner, Sam Kovac. Sam is distracted by an especially brutal double homicide: a middle-aged husband and wife bludgeoned to death in their home. Nikki's case, the unsolved murder of a family man, community leader, and decorated sex crimes detective for the Minneapolis PD, is less of a distraction: twenty years later, there is little hope for finding the killer who got away. “This tense psychological thriller shows Hoag at the top of her game,” our reviewer writes. View video >

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