The Darkest Corners

The Darkest Corners

by Kara Thomas


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"Gripping from start to finish . . . with twists that left me shocked."—Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen

For fans of Gillian Flynn and Pretty Little Liars, The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

    There are secrets around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about what happened there that last summer.
    She and her childhood best friend Callie never talked about what they saw. Not before the trial. And certainly not after.
    But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
    Only the closer Tessa gets to what really happened, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

And don't miss Kara's next "eerie and masterly psychological thriller" Little Monsters—on sale now (SLJ)!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594755005
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/19/2016
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 489,925
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Kara Thomas has written for everything from her high school newspaper to Warner Bros. Television. She is a true-crime addict who lives on Long Island with her husband and rescue cat. She is the author of The Darkest CornersLittle Monsters, and The Cheerleaders. To learn more about Kara and her books, visit her at or follow @karatwrites on Twitter and @kara_thomas on Instagram.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Hell is a two-hour layover in Atlanta.

The woman to my right has been watching me since I sat down. I can tell she’s one of those people who take the sheer fact that you’re breathing as an invitation to start up a conversation.

No eye contact. I let the words repeat in my head as I dig around for my iPod. I always keep it on me, even though it’s a model that Apple hasn’t made for seven years and the screen is cracked.

Pressure builds behind my nose. The woman stirs next to me. No eye contact. And definitely do not—

I sneeze.

Damn it.

“Bless you, honey! Hot, isn’t it?” The woman fans herself with her boarding pass. She reminds me of my gram: she’s old, but more likely to be hanging around a Clinique counter than at the community center on bingo day. I give her a noncommittal nod.

She smiles and shifts in her seat so she’s closer to my armrest. I try to see myself through her eyes: Greasy hair in a bun. Still in black pants and a black V-neck—my Chili’s uniform. Backpack wedged between my feet. I guess I look like I need mothering.

“So where you from?” she asks.

It’s a weird question for an airport. Don’t most people ask each other where they’re going?

I swallow to clear my throat. “Florida.”

She’s still fanning herself with the boarding pass, sending the smell of sweat and powder my way. “Oh, Florida. Wonderful.”

Not really. Florida is where people move to die.

“There are worse places,” I say.

I would know, because I’m headed to one of them.

I knew someone was dead when my manager told me I had a phone call. During the walk from the kitchen to her office, I convinced myself it was Gram. When I heard her voice on the other end, I thought I could float away with relief.

Then she said, “Tessa, it’s your father.”

Pancreatic cancer, she explained. Stage four. It wouldn’t have made a difference if the prison doctors had caught it earlier.

It took the warden three days to track me down. My father’s corrections officer called Gram’s house collect when I was on my way to work.

Gram said he might not make it through the night. So she picked me up from Chili’s, my backpack waiting for me on the passenger seat. She wanted to come with me, but there was no time to get clearance from her cardiologist to fly. And we both knew that the extra ticket would have been a waste of money anyway.

Glenn Lowell isn’t her son. She’s never even met the man.

I bought my ticket to Pittsburgh at the airport. It cost two hundred dollars more than it would have if I’d booked it in advance. I nearly said screw it. That’s two hundred dollars I need for books in the fall.

You’re probably wondering what kind of person would let her father die alone for two hundred dollars. But my father shot and nearly killed a convenience store owner for a lot less than that—and a carton of cigarettes.

So. It’s not that I don’t want to be there to say goodbye; it’s just that my father’s been dead to me ever since a judge sentenced him to life in prison ten years ago.

Chapter Two

Maggie Greenwood is waiting for me at the arrivals gate. She’s a few shades blonder and several pounds heavier than she was the last time I saw her.

That was almost ten years ago. I don’t like thinking about how little has changed since then. The Greenwoods are taking me in like a stray cat again. Except this time I’m well fed. I’m on the wrong side of being able to pull off skinny jeans. Probably all those dinner breaks at Chili’s.

“Oh, honey.” Maggie scoops me to her for a hug with one arm. I flinch but force myself to clasp my hands around her back. She grips my shoulders and gives me her best tragedy face, but she can’t help the smile creeping into her lips. I try to see myself through her eyes—no longer a bony, sullen little girl with hair down to her waist.

My mother never cut my hair. Now the longest I keep it is at my shoulders.

“Hi, Maggie.”

She puts an arm on the small of my back and herds me out to where she’s parked. “Callie wanted to come, but she had to get an early night.”

I nod, hoping that Maggie doesn’t sense how her daughter’s name inspires a sick feeling in my stomach.

“She has a twirling competition tomorrow morning,” Maggie says. I’m not sure who she’s trying to convince. I know it’s all bullshit and Callie wouldn’t have come if Maggie had dragged her.

“So she’s still into that?” What I really mean is, So people actually still twirl batons and call it a sport, huh? But I don’t want to be rude.

“Oh, yeah. She got a scholarship.” Maggie’s grin nearly cuts her face in half. “To East Stroudsburg. She’s thinking of majoring in exercise science.”

I know all this, of course. I know who Callie is still friends with (mostly Sabrina Hayes) and what she had for breakfast last week (cinnamon-sugar muffin from Jim’s Deli). I know how badly Callie is dying to get out of Fayette (pronounced Fay-it, population five thousand) and that she already parties harder than a college freshman.

Even though I haven’t spoken to her in ten years, I know almost everything there is to know about Callie Greenwood. Everything except the thing I desperately need to know.

Does she still think about it?

“Your grandmother told me you decided on Tampa?”

I nod and lean my head against the window.

When I told Gram I’d gotten into the University of Tampa, she said that I had better think real hard about going to college in the city. Cities chew people up and spit them out.

As Maggie gets off at the exit for Fayette, all I can think is that I’d rather be chewed up and spit out than swallowed whole.

Maggie pulls up outside a white, two-story farmhouse that was twice as big in my childhood memory. We shut the doors of the minivan, prompting the dogs next door to flip out. It’s almost one in the morning; in a few hours, Maggie’s husband, Rick, will be getting ready to start his bread delivery route. I feel bad, wondering if he’s waiting up to make sure Maggie got home okay. That’s the kind of husband he is.

My dad was the kind of husband who’d make my mom wait up, sick with worry, until he stumbled in smelling like Johnnie Walker.

The dogs quiet down once we’re on Maggie’s porch, already tired of barking. Neighborhoods in Fayette wear their emotions like people do. The Greenwoods’ neighborhood is tired, full of mostly blue-collar families who are up before the sun. The type of people who eat dinner together seven nights a week, no matter how exhausted they are.

When I think of my old neighborhood, I think of anger. Of crumbling town houses squashed together so tightly, you can see right into your neighbor’s kitchen. I think of angry old men on their porches, complaining about the cable company or the Democrats or their social security checks not arriving on time.

The Greenwoods used to live in my old neighborhood. They moved a year before I left to live with Gram, which meant I couldn’t run down the street to play with Callie like I’d been doing since I was six.

Maggie unlocks the front door, and I immediately smell the difference. I want to ask her if she misses her old house as much as I do.

But of course she doesn’t. And after what happened in that house, it’s the type of question that will definitely make me unwelcome here.

“Are you hungry?” Maggie asks, shutting the door and locking it behind her. “I know they don’t give you anything on the plane anymore. There’s some leftover lasagna.”

I shake my head. “I’m just . . . really beat.”

Maggie makes a sympathetic face, and I notice all the lines that weren’t there ten years ago. She probably thinks I’m upset about my father dying.

The Tessa she remembers would have been upset. She would have cried and screamed for her daddy like she did the day the cops broke the front door down and led him out of the house in handcuffs.

Maggie doesn’t know that the old Tessa has been replaced with a monster who just wants her father to hurry up and die so she can go home.

“Of course you are.” Maggie squeezes my shoulder. “Let’s get you to bed.”

The sun comes up the instant I fall asleep.

I really need a shower, but I don’t know where the Greenwoods keep their towels. In the old house, they had a linen closet inside the bathroom. Instead of going downstairs and asking Maggie for a towel, I splash some water on my face and pat it dry with a hand towel.

I have trouble asking people for things. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, but I think it got bad when Gram brought me to Florida. Before she turned her office into a bedroom for me, I slept on a pullout bed. There were no blinds on the windows, so every morning at six, the sunlight streamed in and I couldn’t fall back asleep.

I started sleeping under the pullout bed, because it was dark there. Gram didn’t catch me for more than a month. The windows in my room have blinds now, but sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I find myself crawling under the bed and staring at the bedsprings like they’re constellations.

I didn’t even bother trying to fall asleep last night. When I’m done washing my face I find some Listerine under the sink and swish a bit in my mouth. No reason to redo the bun I slept in. What’s the point? There’s no way I’ll look worse than my father.

Maggie is making French toast when I get downstairs. A coffeemaker gurgles on the counter.

“Milk or cream?” she asks, gesturing to the mug she’s left out for me. I don’t have the heart to tell her I hate coffee.

I shrug. “Either is fine.”

Maggie tilts the pan and flips a slice of bread. “I tried to get Callie up, but she’s not feeling well.”

I sit down at the kitchen table. I heard Callie sneak in at three this morning. I’ll bet anything she’s hungover. Once Callie started high school, the red Solo cups in her Facebook pictures started popping up like mushrooms.

“She’s missing her competition.” Maggie frowns, adjusting the heat on the stove. “But I figure I’ll let her slide. It’s the summer.”

My muscles tense up as I realize this means that Callie probably won’t be able to avoid me all day. Especially not if her mother has anything to do with it.

I called Callie every day for a week once I got to Florida. Every time, Maggie answered. Callie was either at twirling practice, or riding bikes with Ariel Kouchinsky, or finishing up her homework. Maggie’s voice became more desperate and apologetic every day. She didn’t want me to give up.

Eventually my calls stretched out to once a week, then once a month. Then they stopped altogether.

This past year, Maggie called on my birthday and sent us a card for Christmas. She didn’t mention Callie either time.

Three years ago, I spotted Callie in the last place I thought she’d be: an online forum dedicated to discussing the Ohio River Monster murder trial. She made only one post. It was two lines, telling the other posters to shut up—what did they know about the case, they were a bunch of wannabe lawyers living in their moms’ basements. She signed off with Wyatt Stokes is a murderer and never came back to defend herself against the swarms of people demanding, Prove it.

I know it was Callie; she used the same username she’s used for everything since we were ten—twirlygirly23.

I created an account and messaged her. It’s me, Tessa. I’ve been reading this stuff too. She never responded.

In any event, she can’t be thrilled that I’m back to remind her of the worst summer of our lives.

Maggie flops a piece of French toast onto my plate. I look up and return her wan smile. We have to be at the prison by eight.

Fayette, Pennsylvania, looks worse during the day. Worse than I remember. Maggie stops at the Quik Mart on Main Street to get gas. Half the businesses are boarded up, or are hiding behind Closed signs that are probably gathering dust.

A big part of Fayette died with the steel industry in the early nineties. Before I was born, my father worked at a mill in the next town over. Now Fayette looks as if it were clinging on for dear life. Probably because everyone here is so goddamn stubborn. No one will let Jim’s Deli or Paul the Tailor go out of business.

The people who are left refuse to pack up and leave. But with any luck, their kids will.

It takes us half an hour to get to the county prison. I don’t realize my leg is jiggling until Maggie puts the car in park and sets her hand on my knee.

“Honey, are you sure you want to do this?”

Of course I don’t. “It’s fine,” I say. “We won’t stay long.”

Maggie flips her mirror down and puts on a fresh coat of petal-pink lipstick. I return her tight smile, and we walk side by side to the security gate. She slips her arm around my back and doesn’t pull away when my muscles tense.

Gram isn’t touchy-feely. For years, every night I’d linger in the hall, watching her do her crossword puzzle in the den while muttering the answers to the questions on Jeopardy! under her breath. I’d wait right there, like some pathetic affection beggar, until she’d finally look up at me. She’d nod and say, “Well, good night, kiddo.” And that was it.

I kind of have a thing with people touching me now. Maggie doesn’t seem to notice that my reaching into my bag for my phone is really my way of trying to wriggle away from her.

“They’ll probably make you leave that up front.” She nods to my phone. “And hospice . . . they may not let me go in with you.”

I swallow away the bitter taste the coffee has left in my mouth. I guess I should be getting sad right about now, weighed down with memories of my father. Instead, I’m curious. I wonder what he looks like, whether his skin is rice-paper thin and sunken around his high cheekbones. In my memory, he was always healthy. None of us ever went to the doctor; my mom never liked them, and my dad swore that there was no affliction a shot of whiskey couldn’t fix.

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The Darkest Corners 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Random House Children's & NetGalley for a copy of this e-ARC to review. While I received this ebook for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review. One of the most twisted rides you'll ever go on, nothing is as it seems - not for the characters or the reader; this story is just one giant bombshell, caught in the moments just after detonating. I can't say that it's what I was expecting, but it absolutely surpassed anything I could have imagined. Simply riveting. This is a fantastic blend of real and imaginary situations, all swirled together until one can no longer discern the real from the created. Told from Tessa's point of view, we are granted interesting insights into information that could potentially change the outcome of the whole story. Only piece by piece, and almost grudgingly, does Tessa share her thoughts with the only best friend of her childhood, Callie. A childhood cut ridiculously short for both girls, just in different ways. Witnessing the struggles that both Tessa and Callie go through is almost physically painful. It's impossible not to feel something for them. However what you feel will likely change paragraph to paragraph. On the outside Tessa appears only somewhat damaged, while Callie seems fairly normal. But then the faces we show the outside world very rarely reflect who we feel we are on the inside; Callie and Tessa are no different, hiding behind various facades. Given what they've gone through though, well that's pretty understandable. Having been apart for the past ten years means they have to redefine their friendship, if indeed that's what they still are. And all this: their relationship, their shared purpose, and everything that hangs in the balance, it's all condensed into a few short weeks. The pacing of this story is spot on, from the very first page to the very final page. It's a brilliant blend of the intimate and the public, combining those things that a person shares with others, and those they may not even acknowledge themselves. And it's masterfully done, showing us the story through Tessa and the world at large. What Tessa feels seeps into the pages so heavily that it's well nigh impossible for those emotions not to leach off the very page and into your skin as you read. Yet, as with those few people in her life that matter, she still manages to mostly stay behind the barriers she learned to erect very early on. Barriers she's struggling to maintain, even against herself. I simply loved this book! It just takes everything you think you know and turns it on its ear. You'll go in a different person than the one that comes out. And that is the mark of an incredibly well thought out and beautifully crafted story. Even those parts that have a basis in truth are so twisted you'll begin to question the reality and honesty of those external truths. When you can no longer tell fact from fiction the author has done their job; more than just found their job they've set a new standard for the genre. Heaven help those that publish in the same genre after this book; they've got incredible new heights to attain just to stay in the game.
Reading_With_Cupcakes More than 1 year ago
First let me say this... OMG THIS BOOK!!!! OMG OMG OMG! Thank you for letting me get that out of my system. This book has been sitting heavily on my mind since I finished reading it. I cannot help but think back on it. And every time I do... I discover that I like it more and more! So I bet you are here because you are curious about this book and what it is about etc etc etc. Well to quickly sum it up it is a psychological thriller murder mystery! That should tell you right there that it needs to be read, but I will give you a bit more of an explanation anyways. The Darkest Corners is told from the perspective of Tessa. At the age of 9, while she was spending the night over at her BFF's house (Callie), Callie's cousin was murdered!! The thing is, she wasn't just plainly murdered, she was murdered in the same fashion that others had been in the area! Yes kids, there was a serial killer on the loose in Fayette targeting young girls. Shortly thereafter, Tessa moved away to Florida to live with her grandma and Callie stayed. Cut to about 9 years later, Tessa has to return to Fayette to visit her dying father who is in the prison near there. She and Callie are no longer friends. Tessa doesn't want to be there. And then Tessa starts questioning things and looking for her estranged mother and sister. My overall thoughts on this book aside from the tiny freak out I had at this beginning of this post/review are that it was AMAZING and wonderfully crafted. I couldn't put it down. I had to keep going. I was pulled into the story. I had to know what exactly was going on. And to be completely honest with you, I am the kind of person who sneaks to the back of the book at the beginning of reading it. The suspense of "do these people get together?" "does that person live?" etc etc etc kills me. Usually the only way to keep me from doing this is to hand me an ebook to read (and I still do it with those as well, just not as often). Well...I did it with this one. AND YOU KNOW WHAT?! Even though I did that, I still had NO IDEA what all was going to go down in the book. Yes. The Darkest Corners was THAT wonderfully crafted that I could sneak to the back and STILL be totally surprised! My Rating 4.5 Stars Find more of my reviews here: This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ending to the book was crazy! I wouldn't have seen it coming which makes this book that much better
Lizzie More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. LOVED IT! I was so gripped from the first page. Every chapter has a new twist and the entire time I read I kept changing my mind about what I was predicting was going to happen. Tessa is such an interesting character. She's bitter and disillusioned because of everything she's been through, but I still loved her. And that ENDING! oh my god! I could not believe the last line!
KarenfromDothan More than 1 year ago
When Tessa Lowell and Callie Greenwood are eight years old, the two best friends are manipulated into testifying at the trial of an alleged serial killer. Not long afterward, Tessa is sent to Florida to live with her Gram, while Callie remains behind in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa has tried to stay in touch with Callie, but all her attempts have been rebuffed. Now ten years on, Tessa returns to Pennsylvania to see her dying father, and is once again reunited with her estranged friend. This is one heck of a suspense thriller. This gripping story grabs hold of you and never lets go. The characters are very affecting. It’s obvious the two girls carry a heavy burden, after all they helped put a possibly innocent man on death row, and it has shaped them both in very different ways. As they search for the truth, a sort of catharsis takes place in the two. A real roller coaster of a book with a surprise twist at the end that I never saw coming.
Anonymous 6 months ago
A quick read. I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good! I couldn't stop reading, wanting to know what was going to happen next and to figure out the mystery. Best read in awhile!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story starts off suspenseful - Tessa travels from Florida to Fayette County, Pennsylvania to see her father, who is in prison, serving a life sentence for shooting someone during a robbery. Tessa leaves the prison with her father's belongings and a lot of questions about a serial killer who she and a friend helped to convict. From here, the story gets twisted, among old friends who Tessa has not seen in 10+ years, a guy who may or may not be the killer, and a missing child. Adding to the confusion are some typos, and geographical inconsistencies. In one chapter, Tessa and her friend, Callie, go to meet a friend at a motel near I-95, which is a half hour's drive, according to the story. Then a couple pages later in the chapter, they travel to the same motel, only THIS time, it's near I-80. Later, Tessa and Callie travel to a mall near Pittsburgh. After trying to keep all the characters straight, I had to give up and read till the end. I found the story to be loaded with angst and drama - rightfully so, with missing children and a serial killer - but I think the story could have been better delineated. It seemed to fall apart toward the end. [Reviewer's note: Fayette County is in Southwestern Pennsylvania, near W. Virginia & Maryland. I-95 runs on the eastern side of the state, from Maine to Florida.]
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I wanted to read all of it in one setting!
eternalised More than 1 year ago
A slow start, but gradually grows into a thrilling, suspenseful read. The character dynamics were very intriguing, and the character themselves were complex and engaging. The story had some amazing twists. Also loved the focus on the girl’s friendship rather than romance for once. However, the ending was a bit of a let down. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars I really liked the premise of this and was eager to get to it, but it took some time for me to settle in. Tessa and Callie are interesting enough characters. Their history is what makes them intriguing and everyone in their small town still sees the small girls who put away a murderer. Tessa retreats into herself and Callie acts out and I did enjoy seeing them reconnect. The plot has potential to be captivating. My downfall with the story was that there seemed to be about eleventy billion characters and plot threads. I did struggle to get into the rhythm of the story, but once I did, it was entertaining. It didn't have the tension I was expecting, but overall, it was a good story that kept me guessing. **Huge thanks to Delacorte Press and NetGalley for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**