The Familiar Dark #AmyEngel @aengelwrites

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

9781524745950_dde98

It has been a while since I’ve written about Southern Noir and I’ve missed it especially after reading the perfect book for this collection, The Familiar Dark.

Eve Taggert was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – far, far away from those tracks, in a trailer with a drug using/selling mother. Things didn’t get a lot worse than Eve’s home life. Her family had the reputation of being the worst of the very worst. Now, as adults, Eve has moved into town and has a daughter whom she adores. Her brother is a respectable cop. Eve lives entirely for her daughter, Junie, and is completely devastated when Junie and her best friend is found murdered in the park. In any other town in America, Junie’s death would be considered reprehensible but in this dirty backwoods Ozark town, it’s just another day in America. That is why Eve has vowed to find the killer herself, even if it means reverting to her mother’s brand of vigilante justice.

Let me just write a few WOWs here! WOW! Oh WOW! Seriously WOW!! Because I am stubborn, I didn’t read the first book by Engel, The Roanoke Girls, which was all the buzz a few years ago. That’s because I’m really stupid!! Amy Engel is a southern author to be reckoned with whose flair for noir puts Nordic authors to shame! From the opening lines, which perfectly capture the last horrifying dying moments of the two girls, to the volatile and satisfying ending, there is not one moment of The Familiar Dark that is not brilliantly written. Every.Single.Word. The characters are raw, gritty, dirty, corrupt and corruptible. Even the richest in this town are grimy and you know it, you feel it. Those of us who ever have lived in the Ozarks know towns exactly like this one. We’ve known people like Eve and her family and Engel skillfully brings the town and these people off of the pages and into our reality with a flourish of her pen-stroke.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, I’m simply going to say that if you have not read The Familiar Dark yet, I have no idea what you are waiting for. Go. Get it right now and start reading it today and, if you haven’t read The Roanoke Girls, then make sure you get that one as well, because of course I had to go back and read that one too!

The Familiar Dark gets all the stars all the way up to the highest Ozark Mountaintop! WOW!

Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

At least one Saturday a month I like to feature southern literature. I may not be a southern gal any longer, but writers from that region have a gift that is quite different from most other authors. Their writing is grittier, darker, have sly wit and so much charm. Southern Literature is definitely in my soul.

scorched grounds

Scorched Grounds is the second book by Debbie Herbert in the Normal, Alabama series. For those wondering, yes there is a Normal Alabama. It’s an…. unusual place and one I don’t care to drive through again. The series is set in the same location but with totally different characters so join us as we get to know the people from Normal.

Della Stallings’ father went to prison for murdering her mother and brother. Della was the sole survivor of this tragedy, one that has left her with a debilitating phobia. She has worked her entire life to cope with this phobia, including working only the night shift. But now, her father is being released from prison on a technicality and murders begin happening almost immediately. Della has no idea if it is her father who is killing people or, worse, he is being framed by someone else – someone very close to Della.

From the cover, alone, you can tell that this story is very dark. The characters are not very likable. The places are dreary and, some, in ruins. Despite that, you get the sense that Della is trying desperately to rise above this, not to be pulled down by the horror that is her life. There is, however, someone who is determined not to allow that to happen. From Della’s father, to her very bizarre psychologist, to her gosh-awful aunt and uncle, there are so many suspects, a myriad of twists and turns and chilling acts of terror to ensure you are captivated from start to finish.

Herbert does an amazing job at creating an atmospheric thriller that is a perfect example of southern noir. I loved it and hope you will too!

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer and #Netgalley for this intriguing thriller

Cold Waters: Normal Alabama 1 #DebbieHerbert

Wow! To say that I like Southern Noir is an understatement and when it done well, it knocks my socks off. Cold Waters, my Amazon First Reads selection for March knocked it out of the park and into the parking lot beyond. This is one amazing chilling, twisty, dark book!
51psBDF3eZL
amazonWhen Violet was 14 years old, tragedy struck in the town of Normal, Alabama and the town blamed Violet for its loss. A young girl vanished without a trace, the last person to see her was Violet, who was found wandering in the forest where the two often explored and went skinny dipping in the murky lake that ran through town. After being declared psychologically unwell, in a fugue state, Violet was sent to the state mental hospital. Now she has returned to Normal, in more ways than one, to claim her meager inheritance left to her by her mother, and to help her sister care for her father. But the town has not forgotten that fateful day and nothing in Normal is quite normal at all.

As Violet attempts to recall the tragic events surrounding the night that her best friend died, it appears that someone is making sure she is unable to do so even it means she loses what little hold she has on her fragile thread of sanity. The characters that surround Violet, generally, are the most vile characters I’ve run across in literature in a long while; but, they are as realistic as I have encountered as well. I felt as if I knew each and every one of them. They are the people who border on sociopathy, and some who are outright psychopaths, who go out of their way to ensure that others fail, whose only goal is make sure that they come out on top. And then there are those who think they are doing the “right” thing when, in fact, everything they do worsens Violet’s situation more. It is a sad thing to think that the state mental hospital might have been safest place for Violet to spend a decade of her life but with friends and family like hers, it is the truth.

I honestly thought that this was going to be a paranormal book when I selected it. The confusion with any book set in the “deep south,” is that it often is difficult to separate the south’s folk tales, folklore and superstition from magical realism. What they believe in is so culturally engrained into the fabric of their existence that it is who they are without question, without their realization. The superstition in Cold Waters felt like home to me. It created a darker and more believable atmosphere for the book and for me, as a reader, because it is what I know and what I lived for the majority of my life. While this is a book about murder and solving a historic crime, ultimately it is about this poor young woman finally having the opportunity to gain strength and opportunity to stand on her own two feet with the realization that she is not any less normal than the rest of us. Cold Waters is a book I highly recommend for those who enjoy multiple genres from suspense and mystery to women’s literature to noir and southern fiction.