Reviewing: The Dead and The Dark by Courtney Gould

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A copy of this book was provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Content warnings: Homophobia, biphobia, death of a child, murder, strangulation and drowning. 

Highlights:

  • First time I’ve ever seen the author provide a full list of content warnings at the start of a book. 
  • Honestly the atmosphere of this book is just brilliant.
  • Insidious small town secrets? Sign me up
  • I love a ghost hunting show, this one sounds like a queer ghost adventures and I want to watch it 

It has existed in Snakebite as long as memory, but in the man it sees new horizons. It is the shadows , the shifting boughs, the deeps of the lake. It has existed here as long as hate has clouded the hearts of Snakebite like black smog. It is impossible to say when the Dark begins. But this is where it ends.


I read this book in one day, on Easter Sunday, armed with a massive mug of coffee and a fluffy blanket. I got to 97% at maybe midnight and went ‘Well now I have to finish it’ and I DID. That is the enormity of my endorsement of this book. It’s creepy and queer and brilliantly written and I loved it so much. I will be riding the high of my one-day book until approximately 2035. 

This book just sucked me in and refused to loosen its grip until it was done, and it did so by including a number of my favourite things:

  • Queer rep
  • Supernatural haunting type creepiness
  • A whodunnit
  • Small town secrets
  • Did I mention the queer rep
  • A cheesy ghost hunting show

Yup, this book centres around Logan Ortiz-Woodley and her fathers Brandon and Alejo who are the stars of a paranormal investigation show that sounds as cheesy and dramatic as that one show we all know but do not mention by name for legal reasons but rhymes with post shmadventures but a thousand percent queerer and more romantic and honestly I want to watch this show. I mean there’s a toilet that doubles as a portal to hell – how dare this not be a real show. When Brandon ups and moves his family to the town he and Alejo grew up in – Snakebite, where small town politics and homophobia take not just a front seat but the entire front row – to film an episode of the show, Logan is just waiting until she hits eighteen and can officially leave. Brandon has been pushing her away for years, and she’s sick of trying to figure out why. Of course, when it turns out that a string of disappearances in Snakebite line up with her family’s appearance in town they don’t exactly get the warmest of welcomes. 

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend is missing, and she will comb every inch of Snakebite’s woods until she finds him. Tristan seems to be lingering in the corner of her vision everywhere she looks, never quite in sight, always on the periphery. When this odd new family appears, it only makes sense for her to investigate. 

I loved this book, the sinister, creeping tone of it, the small town prejudices given almost tangible form. Snakebite was that epitome of American small town horror, with its ‘close knit’ community and distrust of strangers, and that something in the air around all of them. Given that Logan’s fathers do a show about ghosts, the book seems to me almost more about the things that haunt people every day – not the dead, necessarily, but the things left unsaid, the lies, the secrets people keep and the lengths they will go to in order to conceal them. 

While it’s definitely not terror-inducing on the horror scale, more an atmospheric read, it definitely has some heavy topics in it. All are listed at the start of the book, and the top of this review, in case you may find them upsetting to read. If you’re comfortable with the topics mentioned, I’d highly recommend this book – in fact it was so good, I may just read it again! 

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