Fresh Meat: Tami Hoag’s Down the Darkest Road

Down the Darkest Road by Tami HoagSet in 1990, Tami Hoag’s newest page-turner, Down the Darkest Road, is the third in a series that began with Deeper than the Dead in which the See-No-Evil killer terrorized Oak Knoll, CA. In Secrets to the Grave, a killing is solved with the aid of the new science of criminal profiling.

Down the Darkest Road offers no spate of new murders and no new science. Instead, the story focuses on Laura and Leah Lawton, the suffering they share, and Laura’s quest for justice. Laura says, “Once upon a time I had the perfect family. I had the perfect husband: handsome, loving, successful. I had the perfect children: Leslie and Leah—beautiful, brilliant, precious girls. I had the perfect life in the perfect home in the perfect place.”

But then Laura’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Leslie, was kidnapped. Laura knows who did it, but the police had no evidence for an arrest. Two years later, in 1988, her husband committed suicide, and Laura and her younger daughter Leah were left alone to cope.

Laura knows that the kidnapper, Roland Ballencoa, lives in Oak Knoll, and she has spent four fruitless years trying to get the police to arrest him. Laura refuses to give up, however, and her obsessive quest for justice blinds her to her younger daughter’s suffering. At a time when they should be grieving and healing together, Leslie and Laura suffer separately. The pain never lessens, and they dream and cry alone.

Leah dreads the dark and the knowledge that with sleep will come dreams of her sister, a sister she loves but also hates for all the space she takes up in her mother’s head. Her conflicted feelings leave her feeling fragile and helpless.

She wanted desperately to cry, but not alone. Crying alone was one of the most miserable depressing things she knew. It only left her feeling even more empty and abandoned than she already felt, as if the earth had opened up a huge black hole for her to fall into all by herself.

The tears welled up and balanced on the ridge of Leah’s eyelashes. She felt so alone. She didn’t want to go to her mother . . . but she got out of bed just same and went out into the hall. . . . She stopped, holding her breath. She didn’t want to knock. She didn’t want to say anything. She was trying so hard not to cry that her eyes felt like they would explode. What she really wished was that her mom would have come to her bedroom to check on her and realized that she needed a hug. But that hadn’t happened. It hardly ever did.

A fresh bitter feeling of despair pressed down on her as she heard her mother crying on the other side of the door. Leah could tell she was trying not to make much noise as she did it, just as Leah was trying not to make noise as the tears spilled down her cheeks.

In Down the Darkest Road, Tami Hoag tells a compelling and heart-wrenching tale of loss and love and justice.

Susan Amper, author of How to Write About Edgar Allan Poe, still mourns the loss of her Nancy Drew collection.


  1. Saundra Peck

    Wow, intense. Looks like a good series, will have to load them all on my Kindle!

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