By Katie Tallo
When Augusta “Gus” Monet’s great-grandmother Rose dies, it saves her from a deadbeat life with a controlling, drug-dealing boyfriend.
But it throws her back into memories of the dark August in 2006, when her police detective mother, Shannon, was killed in a car accident. Gus was sent to be raised by the frail Rose and her sour, crow-like caregiver Yanna.
Her inheritance from Rose includes a rundown 1920s house with a mortgage payment due in three months, a vintage Buick, an aging dog named Levi and a plastic clothing bag full of cash hidden in Rose’s mattress.
Even more important to Gus, is the discovery of cold case files that her mother had been working on in the last months of her life. As Gus sifts through them, she remembers the pictures and clippings connected by red marker lines displayed above Shannon’s desk in their garage. From memory, Gus recreates the display on a wall in Rose’s living room.
In Gus’s childhood, that display took her mother’s attention away; now, it offers a way back to her mother and a chance to learn what happened the night her car sailed into a lake.
Photos of a little girl in a tutu and a young man knocking on a porch door; clippings about a Sen. Kep Halladay and obituaries of his wife and daughter all lead Gus to the tiny town of Elgin. She soon learns that Elgin was destroyed in a toxic chemical explosion resulting from fracking that Halladay had brought to the town.
This is a well-crafted, compelling mystery. Gus is a character with compassion who grows and matures as she investigates. She’s not greedy or mercenary. She has the courage to refuse to return to her loser boyfriend; to resist the untruths people tell her about her mother; and the strength to persist in his search for her mother’s truth.
About the Author: Katie Tallo
Canadian Katie Tallo was an award-winning screenwriter and director for more than 20 years before she turned to writing novels in 2012. Her manuscript, 22 MONDAYS (GONE MONDAY), won the international Mslexia Women’s Novel Writing Competition in the United Kingdom in 2013
DARK AUGUST (2020) is her first novel. She is currently working on a sequel.
She and her husband living in the Wellington West neighborhood of Ottawa, where she grew up and where DARK AUGUST is set. Her own late golden retriever, Levi, inspired Gus’s canine sidekick in the novel.