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Kelsey Butts
Service Provider
Darkness & Grace
Inspired by real-life events, Darkness and Grace is a compelling story of the Pierson family as they discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep them safe from one woman’s malicious intent. It’s the classic struggle between good and evil, as well as the violent undercurrent running beneath the illusory serenity of a close-knit Midwestern family.
Inspired by a true story, this intimate family thriller from Schleich (Salvation Station) centers on the Piersons, an affluent Midwestern family united with excitement about middle son Paul's marriage to his second wife, Pamela, in 1996. But what starts off as a blessed union that the family approves of soon turns into something more sinister as Pamela's behavior changes once wedding vows are exchanged, and the family finds itself overlooking disturbing red flags in an attempt to keep the peace and avoid seeing Paul hurt by love yet again. Soon, the family and their close-knit relationships are severely tested by Paul's new bride and her ominous calculations.

Schleich instantly pulls readers in, opening with an ominous article about a woman found dead in the woods, and then, just as quickly, immersing them in the midst of a joyous wedding described as “a resurrection from the dead of sorts.” From there, the story’s pacing is entertaining, the events laced with intrigue, though the multitude of characters introduced within the first few chapters demands some effort to track. Despite that challenge, Schleich writes the Piersons and others with an engaging attention to their shared intimacies and histories, especially as the family rallies with touching gusto around Paul, a widower at the age of 31, and his new bride.

That makes the secretive and malicious intentions Schleich hints at and then reveals all the more suspenseful, as readers become attached and attempt to game out Pamela’s next moves—and how the family, especially Paul, will respond. Schleich delivers plenty of surprises and plot twists, but this slow-burn thriller also offers evocative prose and emotional nuance as it inspires readers to tear through the pages to discover what ultimately happens to the Pierson family. After a deliberate buildup, fans of the genre will be satisfied with the secrets, lies, and a shocking conclusion.

Takeaway: This gripping drama of a rich family, a second marriage, and plenty of surprises builds to a thrilling conclusion.

Great for fans of: Liane Moriarty’s The Husband's Secret, Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A