Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag (♦♦♦)
Sixteen-year-old Leslie Lawton disappeared on her way home from a sport event in Santa Barbara, California, never to be seen again. Four years later Leslie’s mother, Lauren, is still reeling from two tragedies since her husband took his own life not long after his daughter vanished.
Lauren has moved to Oak Knoll, California to try to save what’s left of her life with her daughter Leah, but the man suspected in Leslie’s disappearance appears to be living in the same town and for Lauren the nightmare never ends.
Enter Tony Mendez, detective with Oak Knoll Sheriff Office, who believes Lauren’s side of the story almost from the beginning and decides to investigate further. Partnered with Danni Tanner--police detective with Santa Barbara PD-- and Hicks, his investigative partner, Tony Mendez assembles a timeline of unsolved disappearances of young women in California and cases of breaking and entering where odd occurrences have taken place but nothing has been taken.
Everything points to the suspect, but there are no smoking guns until Lauren decides to take the law in her hands—since the system has been failing her for years—and invades the home of the suspect where she finds detailed notes on the women he has stalked. Unfortunately, Lauren sets in motion a chain of events that may endanger her life and Leah’s as well.
Down the Darkest Road details the exploit of a sexual predator and the consequences of his actions in a family. I admit the guy was so creepy, and his sexual fantasies so offensive that I had a hard time digesting this book. Another thing that turned me off was the impotence of Lauren and the police that also reflected in my own impotence at finding a way to successfully deal with this case and get the guy even on a technicality. I didn’t like that the pervert had the upper hand almost until the very end; I found that disheartening and sick.
As with the previous two books I have read by Tami Hoag, the cop humor distracted me from the intense and fatalistic plot. Another thing that I liked about Down the Darkest Road was that I already knew some of the characters since Secrets to the Grave, which I also read and reviewed in this site, also took place in Oak Knoll four years before the events detailed in this book.
Overall, expect intense suspense with a creepy guy who always seems to be winning.
“I had the perfect life in the perfect home, in the perfect place. We were one of those sickening perfect families with matching monograms. The Lawtons: Lance, Lauren, Leslie, and Leah. The Lawtons of Santa Barbara, California.
And then, as in all fairy tales, evil came into our lives and destroyed us.” Page 1
“Lauren found a certain comfort in the reminder that she wasn’t the only person to ever go through hell. That road was well traveled.” Page 51
“'This isn’t even a whodunit,’ Hicks said. ‘This is a what-the-hell.’” Page 133
“As Winston Churchill said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ I know from hard experience that can be the longest journey down the darkest road. And I have learned that sometimes the shortest distance isn’t forward, but up.” Page 484