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. We were one of those sickeningly perfect families with matching monograms. The Lawtons: Lance, Lauren, Leslie, and Leah. The Lawtons of Santa Barbara, California.
And then, as in all fairy tales, evil came into our lives and destroyed us.
I remember when Leslie was small and loved to have us read to her. Fairy tales were the obvious choice. Our parents had read fairy tales to us when we were children. I remembered the books as being filled with beautiful pictures and happy endings. But fairy tales aren’t happy stories. Only from a distance are they beautiful. In reality they are dark tales of abuse, neglect, violence, and murder.
Cinderella is held as a prisoner and treated as a slave in her own family home, abandoned by the death of her father to the physical and psychological torment of her stepmother and stepsisters.
Hansel and Gretel are abducted by a sadistic maniac who holds them captive in the woods, fattening them with the intent of roasting them alive and cannibalizing them.
Red Riding Hood goes into the forest to visit her elderly grandmother only to find the woman has been savaged and eaten alive by a wild animal.
These are fairy tales.
So is my story.
Leslie was—is—our firstborn. Headstrong and charming, a little rebellious. She loved to dance, she loved music.
Who would ever think a person could be tormented by the choice of verb tense? Past? Present? A choice of little consequence to most people, that choice can bring me to tears, to the point of collapse, to the brink of suicide.
Leslie was. Leslie is. The difference to me is literally one of life or death.
Leslie is alive.
Leslie was my daughter.
My daughter went missing May 28, 1986. Four years have passed. She has not been seen or heard from. I don’t know if she is alive or dead, if she is or was.
If I settle on the past tense, I admit my child is gone forever. If I grasp on to the present tense, I subject myself to the endless torment of hope.
I live in limbo. It’s not a pleasant neighborhood. I would give anything to move out, or at least to remove the pall of it from my soul.
I crave some kind of cleansing, some kind of catharsis, an elimination of the toxic waste left behind in the wake of a bad experience. The idea of catharsis sparked me to begin this book. The idea—that by sharing my experience with the world, the poison of these memories might somehow be diluted—was like throwing a lifeline to someone being swept away by the raging waters of a flood.
The catch, however, is that I can’t escape the torrent no matter how strong that lifeline might be. I am the mother of a missing child.
Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD by Tami Hoag.
Copyright © 2012 by Indelible Ink. Inc.
A tragic crime brings a family to its knees in this chilling new page-turner from incomparable New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag. Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a parent more than the specter of a missing child. When Leslie Lawton is abducted from her small California town, the police are convinced she’s been murdered by a mean, nasty piece of work they can’t arrest for lack of any solid evidence. This inability to bring charges against Roland Ballencoa leads the young girl’s distraught father to commit suicide.
As Down the Darkest Road opens, Lauren Lawton and her remaining child, Leah, have moved to nearby Oak Knoll, where the curious but kind residents are not yet aware that the monster is in their midst. But who followed who?
Lauren is obsessed with her need for revenge, and as she stalks Ballencoa, she grows more outraged by the taunting denials he flings at her during the twisted cat-and-mouse game they can’t stop playing. The detectives who worked the abduction assure Lauren justice will eventually be served. But she will not—cannot—listen as her turn down a dark road leads toward a collision course with an assumed killer…and a stunning truth she may not want to face.
Hardcover Book : 336 pages
Publisher: Dutton/Div of Penguin USA ( December 27, 2011 )
Item #: 13-430799
Product Dimensions: 5.25 x 8.5 x 0.76inches
Product Weight: 13.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Have read all of Ms. Hoag's novels and this newest one is not up to her usual standards I felt. Slow, hard to get through.
Reviewer: Karen P
I thought it was an enjoyable read.
Wasn't a gripper, was let down. Knew from the beginning the character was going down the wrong road.
My husband and I both read this book and felt it was one that couldn't be put down. It shows a mother's determination not to quit when she knows she is right, and also the justice's willingness to quit too soon. Despite the outcome, it was a suspense-filled read that ended too sadly, not the usual happy ending you would expect.
Reviewer: Martha F
This book is no "Deeper than the dead" that's for sure.
I found it lacking in the story developement and there wasn't any suspense. I feel Ms. Hoag phoned this one in.