Lately, I’ve been spending a great deal of time listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder. Hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, My Favorite Murder is an hour of Kilgariff and Hardstark discussing all the true crime they love. Because of their love of serial killers, I’ve been thinking about serial killers and serial murder. So, when I picked up Kara Thomas’ The Darkest Corners, I was excited at the possibilities of a young adult novel about a serial killer, something I had never read before.
Tessa hasn’t been to her hometown of Fayette, Pennsylvania for 10 years. When Tessa and her best friend Callie were 8 years old, they were star witnesses in the trial of Wyatt Stokes, who was sent to jail for the murder of four young girls, including Callie’s cousin, Lori. Tessa since moved away and returns to Fayette to see her dying father who is in prison. Tessa finds that Callie is in Fayette attempting to escape her past and Tessa is still unsure if they know the truth about what happened to Lori. Having just finished high school and ready to start college, Callie and Tessa are thrown back together to work to answer the questions of their past that have been haunting them for years. Tessa must deal with the ghosts of her family and she and Callie work together to learn the truth about what happened to Lori.
Told in first person narrative by Tessa, this novel was fast-paced and suspenseful. Unlike many young adult novels that fail to really haunt the reader or keep you guessing, Thomas’ novel does just that. It is full of twists and turns that work to not only strengthen the story and its suspense but keep readers guessing until the last page of the novel. Tessa’s childhood, growing up poor in a very middle-class Western Pennsylvania town, adds to the believability of the novel. Of course, there are serial killers and individuals escaping from their past in the small mountain towns of Pennsylvania.
The Darkest Corners is dark. There are ghosts at every turn. Tessa’s return is full of mysteries. She wants answers to Lori’s death and Wyatt Stokes’ role in the death. She wants to find her sister, Joslin, who disappeared shortly after Lori’s death and whom Tessa hasn’t seen since. She wants to find her mother, who left her shortly after Joslin’s disappearance, causing Tessa to live with her grandmother in Florida. This book is full of mysteries. And, just when you think you have them solved, another comes along.
I loved this book. It was one of the most innovative young adult mystery novels I have read in a long time. The themes of love and loss and betrayal run throughout it, making connections that you can keep returning to as you continue to think about the novel. The Darkest Corners is one of those books that stays with you. It’s one of those books you’ll think about when you’re walking down the dark road in the middle of the night and think you hear something behind you. It’s the best kind of book. One that makes you second guess.
Note: This review was first published in PCA/ACA Mystery & Detective Reading List (Winter 2017)