An embattled actress becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat—and starts a true crime podcast to try to break the case—in this chilling novel about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder, from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.
“[An] evocative, character-propelled thriller.”—Publishers Weekly
Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in upstate New York—the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a Spiritual Center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and no shortage of crystals to cleanse her energy.
But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes the Center is involved. To find out what’s really happened and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything—even her own life—is how it appears.
Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, her gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.
This was an intriguing read. It starts off with troubled actress, Olivia Reed, being taken to a rehab facility, known as the House of Light, and spirals from there into a mystery within a mystery and peppered with several interesting surprises. While there was lots of mystery and intrigue, there wasn’t enough action to make this a full five stars from me. Plus, Olivia, or Liv, is a less than likable character without enough growth to change my opinion of her. After some very new-age spiritual orientation, she more or less reluctantly settles into her time there, going with the flow with leaders with names like Dawn, and Rain, and Mud Puddle. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture. These people are crystal-channeling, Birkenstock-wearing, robe-clad cult leaders and Liv has too many street smarts to be fooled by their promises of “finding the light.”
It’s only when she meets her wacky neighbor, Ava, that she begins to suspect there may be something more sinister going on. She manages to get herself kicked out, but Ava has ignited a desire in her to uncover the truth. This leads her to conducting her own investigation and launching a true-crime podcast surrounding the deaths of a number of women once associated with the House of Light. Liv has made more than her fair share of mistakes in the past, but that doesn’t stop her from having inappropriate contact with Ava’s husband. That particular storyline was very much in character with who Liv is, but it made her very difficult to connect with. Her rate of self-absorption never really resolves, unfortunately, as the mystery unfolds.
The closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more she feels like she’s in danger. But what she uncovers will rock her world and leave her questioning nearly everything about her own life.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t find enough action in the plot to keep me riveted to the pages. But it’s not boring and it didn’t drag; it’s just not a page-turner. The author did a good job of foreshadowing, but enough that I figured out some of it before the big reveal. Some other elements of the overarching mystery were surprising enough to make up for that, though.
While the characters were all really well developed, I never liked Liv. I would have liked to have seen a positive change character arc for her, but I also understand that not everyone needs that. But we spend so much time inside her head, it would’ve been nice. While she does acknowledge some of the stuff she did was wrong, she’s still doing dumb stuff right up to the very end.
What I Enjoyed About DARK CIRCLES
1. Mysteries. A love that there were a series of mysteries rather than just a single one. The missing and dead women, Olivia’s missing mother, her father’s true motives, and more, were expertly woven throughout.
2. Setting. The fall setting in the northeast U.S. set a great tone for a dark and twisted tale.
3. Writing. I really enjoyed the author’s voice and how she interwove the podcast narration into the the narrator’s tale.
4. Olivia’s Lack of a Driver’s License. Yes, her reason was she lived in New York, and didn’t really need to know how to drive, but a lot of Gen Z and Millennials aren’t bothering to learn how to drive, and that felt really authentic to me.
5. Surprises. There were enough interesting surprises to make of for the lack of overt action, making this a satisfying read.
A dark tale with intrigue and fully-fleshed out characters.
About the Book
Title: DARK CIRCLES
Authors: Caite Dolan-Leach
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Genre: Adult Psychological Crime Drama
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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