The Darkest Corners
by Kara Taylor
, Kara ThomasPublished by Delacorte Press
on April 19, 2016Genres: Mystery
, YA Thriller Pages:
eARCSource: eARC via NetGalleyGoodreads
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.
Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?
In my spare time, I read about things like the OJ Simpson case or general unsolved mysteries while crime documentaries and docudramas play in the background. Maybe Forensic Files will be on instead if I can’t find a program or documentary to my liking at the time. In other words, I’m a massive true crime junkie. The author proved herself to me with her Prep School Confidential series (written as Kara Taylor), so combined with the premise, of course I was going to read The Darkest Corners. It is a fantastic read, but I’m a bit disappointed as well.
Fellow true crime junkie will find catnip and callbacks to infamous cases on every page. A clear West Memphis Three inspiration, a Serial and Making a Murderer-esque national obsession with finding the truth behind the Ohio River Monster’s identity, a major plot point I can’t discuss because SPOILERS,… Were the Ohio River Monster and the associated murders real, I have no doubt whatsoever that the nation and our central characters would be exactly as obsessed as Taylor writes them. She nails the small-town vibe perfectly and makes Fayette, Pennsylvania one of the most vivid settings I’ve read in a while.
Tessa and Callie’s dynamic as former friends, decisive co-witnesses in the Monster’s conviction, and two girls badly hurt by their part in the case is utterly fantastic as they run into red herring after red herring and try to get comfortable with one another again. The lack of romance is refreshing too! I’d like to headcanon Tessa as aromantic asexual like me because she comes off as more disinterested than simply not thinking about it, but I don’t like to do that. Imagining my identity on other characters just hurts me and obscures how much representation I actually have.
ANYWAY. Here begins the criticism.
Tessa is a very bland narrator from the very start. Her one standout trait is that she’s so obsessed with the Ohio River Monster case that you wonder if she’s hiding something more than “I didn’t actually see his face, the police badgered me into saying I did.” Spoiler alert that’s not actually a spoiler: she’s not. She’s written right along the lines of an unreliable narrator but isn’t one. If it gets in your head early on that she’s unreliable, throw it out because you’re thinking too hard from reading more expertly crafted thrillers. I fell in that trap too.
The novel is full of twists and turns to keep readers wondering what the truth is alongside Tessa and Callie, but a mix of my experience and overly clear clues led to me calling quite a few twists I wasn’t supposed to. An incredibly weak ending didn’t make me feel much better.
The last chapter or two are exposition-heavy and spent solely on wrapping up every single loose end in one of the most unsubtle ways I’ve ever seen. At the end of a thriller, we’re all going to get stuck with a little bit of boring exposition to explain what happened afterward. Still, I’ve seen it done much better than this. Even in a book, not every plot thread will be wrapped up because life doesn’t work that way. There’s a character we’ll never learn the truth about, for instance. One event that can’t quite be explained. The Darkest Corners answers every possible question, leaving nothing for readers’ brains to stick to. As quickly as someone finishes reading, the book will already be out of mind and on its way to be forgotten.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still an deeply absorbing novel. I read it in a single day with my feet propped up on pillows with a view of the Las Vegas Strip from my hotel room window. But I’ve read mystery-riddled thrillers with much more honed craft–and two I can think of came from Thomas herself when she wrote as Kara Taylor. I know she can writer much tighter works, so I’m a bit disappointed. Oh well! I still recommend The Darkest Corners as well as her Prep School Confidential series if you haven’t read those books. For real, read that series. It’s great!