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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Dark Ride

Narrator: Johnathan McClain


ISBN: 9780062663863

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: 09/19/2023

Format: Audiobook

My Rating: 5 Stars

From Lou Berney, the acclaimed, multi award-winning author of November Road and The Long and Faraway Gone, comes a Dark Ride

Sometimes the person you least expect is just the hero you need

Twenty-one-year-old Hardy “Hardly” Reed—good-natured, easygoing, usually stoned—is drifting through life. A minimum-wage scare actor at an amusement park, he avoids unnecessary effort and unrealistic ambitions.

Then one day he notices two children, around six or seven, sitting all alone on a bench. Hardly checks if they’re okay and sees injuries on both children. Someone is hurting these kids.

He reports the incident to Child Protective Service.

That should be the end of it. After all, Hardly's not even good at looking out for himself so the last thing he wants to do is look out for anyone else. But he's haunted by the two kids, his heart breaking for them. And the more research he does the less he trusts that Child Protective Services —understaffed and overworked—will do anything about it.

That leaves…Hardly. He is probably the last person you’d ever want to count on. But those two kids have nobody else but him. Hardly has to do what's right and help them.

For the first time in his life, Hardly decides to fight for something. This might be the one point in his entire life, he realizes, that is the entire point of his life. He will help those kids.

At first, trying to gather evidence that will force the proper authorities to intervene, Hardly is a total disaster. Gradually, with assistance from unexpected allies, he develops investigative skills and discovers he’s smarter and more capable than he ever imagined.

But Hardly also discovers that the situation is more dangerous than he ever expected. The abusive father who has been hurting these children isn’t just a lawyer—he also runs a violent drug-dealing operation. The mother claims she wants to escape with the kids—but Hardly isn't sure he can trust her.

Faced with a different version of himself than he has ever known, Hardly refuses to give up. But his commitment to saving these kids from further harm might end up getting the kids, and Hardly himself, killed.

My Review

Lou Berney returns following November Road with his latest, DARK RIDE — A captivating emotional suspense thriller of an unlikely hero and his wild ride to save two children.

"Sometimes the person you least expect is just the hero you need."

Stoner, twenty-one-year-old Hardy (Hardly) Reed, is drifting through life with no purpose. He is a minimum-wage actor at an amusement park.

One day, his life will change in ways he never expected.

Hardy is at the DMV regarding a ticket, and as he leaves, he notices two young children (Pearl & Jack), around six and seven, sitting on a bench. He is drawn to them and catches cigarette burns on both children. Then Tracy, the mother, takes them away.

He knows it is abuse, and he cannot live with himself until he finds the abuser. He cannot turn the other way. He cannot go without reporting this.

Hardy reports them to Child Protective Services, but nothing happens. They are short-staffed and overworked, and he has no proof. Who is hurting these children? He cannot allow these kids to be lost in the system.

He takes it upon himself to investigate and do some sleuthing with the help of a cast of misfit friends (loved all of them). He is obsessed with learning who is abusing these kids. He does not trust Child Protective Services to act promptly before it gets worse.

Hardy barely knows how to take care of himself. But he is haunted by the two children. He is the only one who cares. He finds himself fighting for something. He will help the two kids. He tries gathering evidence. That does not work when the authorities do not act on it. Is it the mother or father?

He investigates and turns to unexpected allies. He soon realizes he is capable and more intelligent than he thought possible.

However, by becoming involved, he put himself in danger. The abusive father is a lawyer, has connections, and runs a violent drug operation. The mother says she wants to leave with the kids, but can she be trusted? Is she being abused, too?

He refuses to give up and will stop at nothing until he saves these kids! Hardy is up against some dark criminals.

What a wild ride! I loved DARK RIDE! Berney crafts a highly relatable hero in Hardy who wants to save these innocent children, no matter the danger. The author hooks you from the first page and never lets go!

Bittersweet, an emotional, heartbreaking, yet witty story of a true heroine. Great characterization with plenty of emotion, suspense, and action. Even though it is a fictional story, it could be ripped from today's headlines and how innocent children fall through the cracks of our system and the difficulties of getting help or assistance when needed.

The world needs for Hardlys. Many women cannot leave abusive situations for fear of their spouses. Often, it is a stranger who can help when no one else can.

DARK RIDE reminds me of Dan Chaon's Sleepwalk narrated by John Pirhalla. I purchased DARK RIDE audiobook, narrated by Johnathan McClain, for an award-winning performance. At first, I did not care for him, and as the book went on, he was a perfect voice for all the misfits in this comic-turned-heartfelt ride to redemption.

Highly recommend!

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Sept 19, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


"Dark Ride is Lou Berney at his best. This story of a disaffected scare actor at a theme park who finds his purpose in the defense of two abused children is both thrilling and heartbreaking but ultimately life affirming. The story of a man who finally stands for something after a lifetime of falling for anything will haunt you."

— S.A. Cosby, New York Times bestselling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland

"Dark Ride is a remarkable book written by Lou Berney, a storyteller I admire as a writer and cherish as a reader. Dark Ride effortlessly grabs you and does not let you go until the final page. I didn't want this book to end and it stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Lou Berney is a magnificent writer with talent to burn."

— Don Winslow, New York Times bestselling author of The Cartel and City on Fire

“Poor Hardly Reed! There he is, just peacefully floating through life on a marijuana cloud, working in a rundown amusement park, when he encounters two kids he suspects are being abused. For once in his life he realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Obsession leads him down a heart-wrenching and twisting path, populated by a richly drawn cast of weird and lovable characters and dangerous scenarios. Dark Ride is moving, deeply involving, funny, breathless, and I loved every single page of Hardly’s harrowing journey from stoner to sleuth.”

— Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Last Girl Ghosted and Confessions on the 7:45

"Dark Ride is a brilliant book from a master storyteller. Sometimes the hero you need is the person you least expect and Berney's novel takes you on a remarkable journey where you witness an unlikely stoner become the hero two children in trouble need."

— T.J. Newman, New York Times bestselling author of Falling

"I've been a Lou Berney fan for years, and Dark Ride is a cause for celebration. A suspense novel shot through with heart and soul, it has the feel of an instant classic. Through the journey of Hardly Reed, a lovable pothead turned amateur detective, Berney wrestles with a central existential question: what do we owe our neighbors, and what are we willing to give up to help them?”

— Steph Cha, bestselling author of Our House Will Pay, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

"Dark Ride is a wild, funny, intense, charming, brilliantly written thriller that I couldn’t have loved more. From page one to the stunning end, I was under its spell. (If you don’t love this book, give me a call so I can tell you what a moron you are.)”

— Lisa Lutz, New York Times bestselling author of The Spellman Files the Passenger

“Dark Ride is quite simply dynamite. Lou Berney lights the fuse on the first page and from there, the suspense builds to an utterly explosive climax. Berney offers an endearing and quirky cast of characters, not the least of which is Hardly, the most unusual and likeable protagonist to come along in a great while. This is a story that grabs you by the throat, then reaches deep into your heart. It’s a dark ride, yes, but one well worth the trip.”

— William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of The River We Remember

“Lou Berney is such a talent, and he’s at the top of his game here. Hardly Reed is a protagonist to root for—an affable stoner who just might be the one person who can save two children in danger. Dark Ride will grab your heart in chapter one and not let go until the final, searing page.”

— Alafair Burke, New York Times bestselling author of Find Me

"Put your to-be-read pile to the side. A new book from Lou Berney should go to the top of your agenda."

— Lori Rader-Day, award-winning author of The Death of Us

“Stellar… Hardy is a memorable hero with an extremely satisfying arc, and Berney draws the supporting players with equal care, wringing pathos from their interplay as much as the heartbreaking premise. Few readers will finish this unmoved.” — Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"[Berney] introduces readers to an immediately unforgettable character: Hardly Reed... Berney brings a compelling human touch to a astory that grabs hold of the reader early and never lets go."

— CrimeReads (The Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of Summer 2023)

"[An] original take of the familiar story... delightfully fresh."

— Booklist

"The author of the multi-award-winning November Road introduces an unlikely antihero in an unusual story with an ambiguous ending. For fans of noir crime fiction."

— Library Journal

About the Author

Lou Berney is the author of November Road (winner of the Dagger, Hammett, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity, and a Washington Post Best Book of 2018), The Long and Faraway Gone (winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Macavity, and ALA awards), Whiplash River, and Gutshot Straight, all from William Morrow. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University. WEBSITE

Dark Ride (Sept. 12, 2023)

November Road (2018)

The Long and Faraway Gone (2015)

Whiplash River (Shake Bouchon) (2012)

Gutshot Straight (Shake Bouchon) (2010)







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