Content warning(s): Homophobia, child endangerment and death, violence through means of strangulation and drowning, and slurs. For a detail about the book and its content warnings, visit Courtney Gould’s webpage for The Dead and the Dark.
For fans of books like authors like Courtney Summers and Lisa Jewel, Courtney Gould’s debut novel The Dead and the Dark packs a chilling story of a murder conspiracy, family bonds, and the darkness that exists within the seams of society and even inside the most purest of people.
When Logan Ortiz-Woodley and her dads arrive in Snakebite, Oregon, they show up in the midst of a teenager’s disappearance from the town. Soon after, more teenagers go missing. Having been previously ostracized from Snakebite, Logan’s dads Arlejo and Brandon are instantly labeled as suspects, as well as Logan by extension. Meanwhile, Ashley Barton has been a resident of Snakebite all her life, but after the disappearance of her boyfriend Tristan, the town she grew up in begins twisting into something unfamiliar, even terrifying. Their worlds collide as they work to investigate these disappearances and face terrors unlike anything they have seen before.
This novel is incredibly intense, and not all of it is in a good way. It captivates your attention and will leave you scouring the pages to find out what happens next, but Gould goes deep into heavy topics that may be triggering for some audiences. Readers should take care to heed the content warnings above this review, as well as on Courtney Gould’s website – a practice which, by the way, I love that some authors are beginning to incorporate for their novels.
Gould knows how to pack a punch to the feels and implement some shocking moments in The Dead and the Dark. Many times, I was left wondering: Is anyone truly safe in this book? Additionally, Gould does expertly weave a lot of red herring possibilities for who the true culprit was, and I was continuously left baffled as I tried to figure out the mystery.
One thing I wish was explored a bit more carefully was Logan and Ashley’s relationship. By all accounts from the beginning of the novel, Ashley did not show any indication of identifying as anything other than straight. Yet, she fell into a bond/relationship with Logan that was built seemingly out of their shared trauma of the situation they were both in. I did really like that Ashley finally breaks free from Snakebite–a town with customs stuck 50 years in the past–to explore the country with Logan. That was a pretty sweet ending for the two women, who deserved this adventure after what they went through.
The Dead and the Dark was an immersive experience into a small town that held a lot of secrets, both superficially and hidden deep within its crevices. I would not recommend reading this alone, at night, in the dark.
The Dead and the Dark was released on August 3rd, 2021.