Category Archives: The Familiar Dark

Review: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Title: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 245 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.

Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family—women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances—as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home.


The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel is a gritty and completely enthralling mystery set in a poverty-stricken town in the Missouri  Ozarks.

In hopes of making a better life for her daughter, Junie, single mother Eve Taggert and her brother Cal have managed to escape their dysfunctional and abusive childhood.  Eve works as a waitress at a local diner and Cal is a deputy in the Sheriff’s office. They helped one another survive their horrific childhood and Eve has completely cut their meth-addicted, hard as nails mother out of both her and Junie’s lives. Eve has worked hard to give Junie a good life and she has successfully suppressed the darker aspects of her personality. But after  twelve year old Junie and her best friend Izzie Logan are brutally murdered, Eve’s grief turns to rage as she begins searching for their killer.

After Junie’s death, Eve’s more civilized veneer is stripped away as she begins her hunt for her killer.  Despite her hope the murderer comes from Izzy’s life, she begins her investigation into her own past. After reluctantly asking her estranged mother for help,  Eve seeks answers from her former boyfriend, Jimmy Ray Fulton, who runs the local drug business and owns a strip club.  Cautiously approaching the man who abused her throughout their relationship years earlier, Eve is surprised and slightly puzzled by the advice he offers her.

Eve also relies on Cal to provide her with answers since the sheriff’s office is in charge of the investigation. Cal has long been the rock she relies on and he has taken his niece’s death extremely hard. Cal’s attempts to rein in her investigation are futile as Eve plows headlong into danger in order to find justice for Junie.

The Familiar Dark is an intense, atmospheric mystery that is somewhat dark and disturbing.  The storyline is engrossing and touches on many sensitive issues such as drug addiction, domestic abuse, child neglect and abuse of power by men in authoritative roles. The poverty, small town setting and surrounding hollers are vividly brought to life and add to the story’s overall feeling of bleakness and despair.  Amy Engel brings this mesmerizing mystery to a twist-filled conclusion that is shocking yet astonishingly satisfying.

I thoroughly enjoyed and HIGHLY recommend this tension-filled mystery.

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Filed under 1960s, Amy Engel, Contemporary, Dutton, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Familiar Dark