Sunday, July 21, 2019

Book Review: Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Down the Darkest Road
Author: Tami Hoag
Series: Oak Knoll (Book 3)
Publication: Dutton (2012)

Description: Once upon a time I had the perfect family. I had the perfect husband. I had the perfect children. I had the perfect life in the perfect home. And then, as in all fairy tales, evil came into our lives and destroyed us.

Four years after the unsolved disappearance of her sixteen-year-old daughter, Lauren Lawton is the only one still chasing the ghosts of her perfect Santa Barbara life. The world has given her daughter up for dead. Her husband ended his own life in the aftermath. Even Lauren's younger daughter is desperate to find what's left of the childhood she hasn't been allowed to have.

Lauren knows exactly who took her oldest child, but there is not a shred of evidence against the man. Even as he stalks her family, Lauren is powerless to stop him. The Santa Barbara police are handcuffed by the very laws they are sworn to uphold. Looking for a fresh start in a town with no memories, Lauren and her younger daughter, Leah, move to idyllic Oak Knoll. But when Lauren's suspect turns up in the same city, it feels to all the world that history is about to repeat itself. Leah Lawton will soon turn sixteen, and Oak Knoll has a cunning predator on the hunt.

Sheriff's detective Tony Mendez and his team begin to close in on the suspected killer, desperate to keep the young women of their picturesque town safe. But as the investigators sift through the murky circumstances of an increasingly disturbing case, a stunning question changes everything they thought they knew. In Down the Darkest Road, #1 New York Times bestseller Tami Hoag proves again why she is one of the world's most beloved storytellers.

My Thoughts: This is the third Oak Knoll thriller. This one stars Detective Tony Mendez and has walk-ons from Vince and Anne Leone.

The story begins when Lauren Lawton and her daughter Leah come to Oak Knoll. They have gone through a very bad four years since Lauren's daughter and Leah's sister Leslie disappeared without a trace. The stresses were horrible as Lauren became totally focused on the hunt for Leslie. She harassed police departments in a number of jurisdictions because she didn't feel they were doing enough to find her daughter.

There is a suspect - Roland Ballencoa - who the police liked for the crime but they had no concrete evidence to link him to Leslie's disappearance. A small spot of blood in his van might be Leslie's but DNA testing hasn't advanced enough yet in 1990 to test it.

Lauren is sure that Ballencoa is stalking her but, again, there is no proof. In fact, Ballencola has sued her and local police departments for harassment and won. He is a very smart criminal who knows how to skirt the edge of the law.

Tony gets involved when Lauren and Leah come to Oak Knoll. He believes her and is very frustrated about how much the police department can do and still uphold the law. Lauren is a woman at the end of her rope. She doesn't eat; she doesn't sleep; she drinks too much. Leah is also falling apart but in a much quieter way; she has started cutting to ease the pain. Anne Leone wants to try to help them but can't do much more than offer herself as a sounding board for Lauren and Leah.

This story was told from multiple viewpoints. Lauren is writing about the experience to try to ease some of the pain. Tony is trying to get background on Ballencoa and working with another police officer from a jurisdiction that was the previous home of Ballencoa. We also get Ballencoa's very creepy viewpoint.

This was an exciting page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat. I liked seeing Lauren's viewpoint as a woman obsessed with getting answers about the fate of her child. I felt sorry for Leah who felt abandoned by the mother she loves very much and who is very angry at her sister for the reckless behavior that led to her disappearance. I understood the frustration of law enforcement that felt that their hands were tied.

Favorite Quote:
"Had he left something? Taken something?"

She shook her head. "No, but things had been moved, touched. He had been there. He drank a glass of wine, washed the glass, and left it where I would see it. He had used the bathroom and put the hand towel in the wash. He had done a load of laundry."

"Excuse me?"
I bought this one July 3, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

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