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Friday, January 29, 2021

Dark August An Absorbing Small Town, Big Secrets Thrill Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Augusta "Gus" Monet learns that her great-grandmother has passed away, she feels sad knowing she has no living relatives left, even if she had no great love for the lady herself.  Although the bitter old woman took in 8-year-old Gus after her mother died in a car accident, the crone had little use for children, and immediately sent her ward off to boarding school.  At 20, Gus has become a lonely grifter, following her con artist boyfriend around from city to city and mark to mark.  The inheritance of her great-grandmother's house in Ottawa represents a chance for Gus to make a clean start, sans loser boyfriend.  Without telling him, she goes "home" and takes up residence in a dilapidated house with a loyal mutt named Levi.  

As Gus explores her new digs, she comes across a box of old case files that belonged to her police detective mother.  She remembers her mom spending hours poring over these same papers and photographs, obsessing over the wrongdoings of Kep Halladay, a powerful, small-town senator whose guilt she was desperate to prove.  When Gus starts studying them for herself, she becomes just as caught up in the mystery, just as eager to bring the missing senator—whom she is sure is responsible for her mom's "accident" (among his many sins)—to justice.  Shannon Monet risked her reputation, her career, and eventually her life trying to take the man down.  Can Gus accomplish what her mother couldn't?  

Ignoring ominous "No Trespassing" signs, Gus hikes in to Elgin, the idyllic village where the Halladys once ruled supreme.  Abandoned in the wake of a toxic waste explosion, the place is now a ghost town, its charred streets and storefronts spooky in their post-apocalyptic emptiness.  As Gus explores the ruins, she comes to see that Elgin is not as unoccupied as it seems.  The secrets of the town's tortured past still linger in its poisoned air and someone will go to great lengths to make sure no one—especially not the too curious daughter of a nosy policewoman—sniffs them out.     

My library is open for limited browsing of a small, "curated" selection of books, one of which was Dark August, a debut novel by Katie Tallo.  I hadn't heard of it before but found the plot summary's mention of an abandoned town too intriguing to pass up.  While the setting captured my initial interest, the story sucked me in from word one.  Gus and Levi make an appealing duo and I definitely wanted to know what they were going to do next and how everything was going to turn out for them.  In addition, the plot of Dark August is complex and twisty, the setting is atmospheric and unique, and the vibe is tense and creepy.  How could I not be completely riveted by this well-crafted thriller?  While I did see a few of its plot curves coming, overall I found this novel an absorbing, satisfying read.  As you can imagine, Dark August is not the easiest, most uplifting book in the world, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  

(Readalikes:  A million titles should be coming to mind, but I'm drawing a blank.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, disturbing subject matter, and references to illegal drug use, sex, etc.

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. I love the vibe of this book, and it certainly sounds like the plot moved quickly but at the right pace.

    Great review!

  2. Sounds like my kind of thriller! :D

  3. I haven't heard of this one before but it sounds good!


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