cover image The Familiar Dark

The Familiar Dark

Amy Engel. Dutton, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-524-74595-0

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. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Apr.)