Down the Darkest Road is a murder mystery by Tami Hoag, who writes a good murder-mystery read. I read this a few months ago without looking up the synopsis as Hoag is pretty much an auto-buy for me. I got this at a bookstore, but I can't remember which one now. It was either Barnes and Noble or Borders (RIP).
Title: Down the Darkest Road
Author: Tami Hoag
Page Number: 432 (hardcover)
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller, murder-mystery
Publisher: Dutton, an imprint of Penguin/Random House.
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.
I think it needs to be noted that this is the third book in a series (Oak Knoll), although I suppose it can be a standalone. I've read at least one of the other books in the Oak Knoll series, although the plot isn't really coming back to me. It's also set in the 1980s, before DNA became mainstream. DNA was first used in 1986 in the UK. I wasn't sure I was going to love the 1980s setting, but I think it really turned out well. All I could think of when I wrote that is the IT Crowd episode where they go see a musical set in the 1980s and one of the characters is so annoyed by that, "Ugh! It's set in the eighties!"
I love Tami Hoag's books but this one isn't my favorite (although I still rated it about three or three point five stars). I would start with another of her books and read this one as you go.
The main character, Lauren, is just a mess of grief and rage. Which makes sense. She's convinced that the killer has followed her to Oak Knell and is going to go after her other daughter, Leah. At least, that's what she tells everyone. So she's a bit unreliable as a narrator because she's so convinced that this killer will strike again but she's such chaos. She's kinda unlikable for a variety of reasons (how she treats her daughter, the 'twist at the end', etc) but she is really suffering so I also felt pity for her. It was different. The entire situation was a bit angst-ridden.
The police are working the possible case, although it's not very clear. One of the male characters is named Tony, and he has a backstory in the other novels but I really, really, really can't remember what it is. Tony is part of the Oak Knell sheriff's office and is the contact for Lauren, who often visits the police updating them on her struggles.
Lauren's remaining daughter, Leah, is left on her own quite a bit. Her sister (Leslie) died when she was younger and her father (Lance) died two years after that. This left her with a mother consumed with paranoia and revenge. It wouldn't shock me if this was a bit more normal in children who lost a sibling violently--that is, their parents are a mess and a bit scatterbrained to their comforts. Leah does self-harm by cutting, which her mother does find out about but I'm not sure much is done for Leah because Lauren is not in great shape at the time. Leah's probably the most heart-breaking character for me. Mostly because Lauren is set on revenging Leslie that she ignores Leah most of the time. I'm hoping Hoag writes more and Leah gets a resolution, although I'm not sure that's in the plans.
I'm not sure there's really a romance in this book, it's mostly a suspenseful mystery. Hoag does write romances in her mystery books, but it's not usually the focal point-which I like. Lauren and her Private Investigator have a moment and Tony has feelings for someone, if I'm remembering correctly.
The twist at the end isn't really twist-like. I assumed they were talking about how Lauren stalks the man she believes kidnapped and murdered her daughter. Basically, Lauren has turned from victim to aggressor/revenge. I could be wrong.
So, overall, read other Tami Hoag books first, and then get around to this one.