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Monday, September 20, 2021

Gritty, Atmospheric Thriller a Gripping Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ten years ago, a beautiful 19-year-old cheerleader went missing from a small Texas town.  Her disappearance still haunts the place and the people who vowed to find Trumanell "True" Branson, but couldn't.  Although he has been cleared by the authorities, many believe True's younger brother, Wyatt, killed her.  Especially after a new documentary focuses the spotlight on him once more.  His standing in the town becomes even more precarious when a young girl is seen at his home.  The recluse claims he found the mute, abused child on the side of the road.  Is Wyatt, a presumed murderer, really being a Good Samaritan?  Or does he have more sinister plans for the mysterious girl he calls Angel?  Who is she, anyway?  Where did she come from?  And, most importantly, who hurt her?

Odette Tucker—daughter of the town's beloved police chief, now a cop in her own right—feels an immediate kinship with Angel.  She doesn't want to believe that Wyatt, her high school boyfriend, could hurt anyone, but it's her duty to protect her town.  As she investigates one lost girl in the present, her thoughts turn constantly to True.  What really happened to Odette's old friend?  Can the two cases possibly be connected?  The more Odette digs, the more dangerous her investigation becomes.  Will she be the next woman to disappear from a town steeped in secrets?

Tense, atmospheric mysteries are my jam, so I was all in for this gritty thriller.  We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin stars a brave police officer with a tough exterior, a titanium leg, and a soft, loyal heart.  Odette has her flaws, but all in all, she's a likable, root-worthy heroine.  The supporting cast members (with a few exceptions, most notably Maggie and crew) are less affable, but still intriguing in their contrasting complexity.  An atmospheric Texas setting provides a vivid backdrop to the story, with some small-town politics thrown in for added tension and drama.  Plot-wise, the tale is gripping, with plenty of conflict to keep it interesting.  I saw the killer coming, yes, but not their motive.  There were a few other twists along the way, including a unique story shift that really caught me by surprise.  While I'm still not sure I liked the jarring swerve, it definitely added an intriguing layer to the story.  While We Are All the Same in the Dark is a raw, depressing tale, it's a mostly satisfying one that kept me burning through its pages, eager to know what was going to happen next.  This is the first book I've read by Heaberlin, but believe you me, I'll be checking out her others.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other small-town-big-secrets thrillers, but no specific titles are coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use (marijuana), mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. Sounds like one I need to check out! :)

  2. I'm glad this one ended up being pretty good.

  3. I’m gonna look for this one! Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. This looks interesting and a bit different from other thrillers I've read. Despite the jarring swerve I definitely would like to give this one a try.

  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. It sounds exciting.

  6. Great review! I hadn't heard of this one yet and like mystery/suspense set in small towns. Also, I'm not sure if I mentioned this before but I really love how you not only give a letter "grade" but also include the movie rating. I wish more books were rated this way--I don't mind scary but hate certain things (children abduction/animal abuse) and try to steer clear. Thanks again!


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