Gin Sullivan likes her job as a medical examiner in Chicago. She likes not thinking about small-town Trumbull, PA, the hometown she left without looking back. But when she receives a phone call from the boy she used to love, Jake, telling her that, after all these years, Gin’s sister’s body has finally been found, she realizes that she has to go home and face the past that she’s worked so hard to get away from, and find out what happened to Lily once and for all.
Life’s been busy lately, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. This year has been hard in myriad ways, and you’d think I’d want to read the happiest books I can in order to escape. My brain doesn’t quite work that way, though; when things get tough, I find comfort in mysteries that can pull me in from the very first page and that can make me forget about what I’m dealing with in real life for a few hours. Dark Road Home was absolutely one of these books.
Dark Road Home is a character driven as it is plot driven, and that worked very well. Gin’s a great character. On the surface, she has it all together: she’s successful, brilliant, has a great relationship—she looks like she has it all. But underneath the surface, things are different. I appreciated this novel because it didn’t use the trope of “woman who is successful at work but a mess in her personal life”; it’s much more nuanced than that. Gin seems to be a success in every aspect of her life, but her problem is that she doesn’t let people in. She’s isolated herself emotionally, and she doesn’t realize how bad it’s become until she returns home.
As you’d expect with a psychological thriller/crime novel, the plot of Dark Road Home is twisty from beginning to end; I saw some of these coming, while I was surprised by others. Towards the conclusion of the novel, it felt as if there was one turn too many, but I appreciated how Carlisle fit all the pieces together by the end. The atmosphere of this novel is also very well written; dark, gritty, and ominous, she nailed the vibe of a decaying small town.
Dark Road Home was the book I needed to read. I needed something that would capture my attention, fire my imagination, and keep me riveted from beginning to end, and it was perfect for that. I loved the small-town world that Carlisle built, and I’m hoping the author will choose to revisit it in sequels.