Augusta (Gus) Monet is living an aimless existence with her grifter boyfriend when she learns that her great grandmother—her last living relative—has just died. Ditching her boyfriend, Gus returns to the home she left as a young girl. Her inheritance turns out to be a dilapidated house and an old dog named Levi. While combing through her great grandmother’s possessions, Gus stumbles across an old trunk filled with long-lost childhood belongings. But that’s not all the trunk contains. She also discovers cold case files that belonged to her mother, a disgraced police detective who died in a car accident when Gus was eight. Gus remembers her mother obsessing over these very same documents and photographs, especially a Polaroid of a young ballerina.
When Gus spots a front-page news story about the unearthing of a body linked to one of the cold case files from her childhood trunk, she can’t resist following her mother’s clues. As she digs deeper, determined to finish her mother’s investigation, her search leads her to a deserted ghost town, which was left abandoned when the residents fled after a horrific fire. As Gus’ obsession with the case grows, she inadvertently stirs up the evils of the past, putting her life in danger. But Gus is undeterred and is committed to uncovering long-buried secrets, including the secrets surrounding a missing geology student, the young ballerina in the Polaroid, a prominent family’s devastating legacy, and a toxic blast that blew an entire town off the map.
But is Gus ready to learn the truths that culminated on one terrible August night, more than a decade earlier, when lives were taken, and secrets were presumed buried forever…?
I’m not sure how I feel about this novel. For me, Gus was kind of an unlikable character at times. Actually, I didn’t really like any of the characters, and that made the novel hard to read. Excellent writing and the setting was vivid—and creepy. I loved how Gus picked up her mother’s legacy and I enjoyed all the convoluted connections between the past and the present, but the overall feel of the novel unsettled me. Which is maybe the point in a thriller?
Katie Tallo was born in Toronto. Dark August is her new novel.
(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.)