Book Review: The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall Hovey

The Deepest DarkThe Deepest Dark
Joan Hall Hovey
Books We Love, July 2014
ISBN 978-1-77145-215-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Following the deaths of her husband, Corey, and ten year old daughter Ellie in a traffic accident, author Abby Miller sinks ever deeper into depression. She contemplates suicide as a way to be with them, and to end her unrelenting pain. In a last desperate effort to find peace, she drives to Loon Lake where they last vacationed together, wanting to believe they will be waiting for her there. At least in spirit. Barring that, the pills Doctor Gregory gave her to help her sleep, are in her purse.

The cabin at Loon Lake was her and Corey’s secret hideaway, and not even Abby’s sister, Karen, to whom she is close, knows where it is. But someone else does. He is one of three men who have escaped from Pennington prison. They are dangerous predators who will stop at nothing to get what they want – and to keep from going back to prison. Having already committed the worst of crimes, they have nothing to lose.

Unknowingly, Abby is on a collision course with evil itself. And the decision of whether to live or die will soon be wrenched from her hands.

It’s understandable that Abby would want to have a little solitude after the heartwrenching loss of her husband and child, especially when she’s on the verge of giving in to the unremitting sorrow. What better place to end the pain than the backwoods cabin they loved so much? Abby is about to find out, though, that she doesn’t really want to let life go when there comes a knock on her door. She’s about to find out that there are three men who, like her, have nothing to lose.

The scenes in the early pages of this book, when we first encounter the prison escapees, are bad, very bad, but it’s that first meeting Abby has with the stranger at her door that sets the stage for her fight against true evil. This man radiates malevolence without doing anything overt but Abby seems to sense that something isn’t quite right. Ken Roach clearly has a purpose in being there but what connection could this convict possibly have with the cabin at Loon Lake?

Abby and Roach are strongly developed characters and I easily fell into an empathetic relationship with Abby. Roach and his companions, Tattoo and Dog, are the personification of mindless brutality and it’s these men who are so well drawn that they came alive for me in an uncomfortable way, making me look over Abby’s shoulder more than once.  Secondary characters, particularly the daughter of a missing elderly couple, bring another element of fear and heartbreak that makes this so much more than a mere crime story.

I doubt that much is more frightening than being alone  and away from anyone that might help when you know that you’re in serious danger; that visceral fear is at the heart of The Deepest Dark and just won’t let go from one page to the next. Not only did I have to stay up to find out what was going to happen on that next page…I couldn’t have slept anyway with all my spidey senses on high alert. Every little noise creeped me out and THAT, my friends, is what makes Joan Hall Hovey a genius at writing suspense.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.