Binge-then-Read: Ozark

Binge-then-read: Ozark

The Netflix drama Ozark follows the story of Marty Byrde, a financial advisor, and his family, who are wrapped up in laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. Following the death of Marty's business partner they move their family from Chicago to Lake of the Ozarks. After the discovery of the body of Marty's former business partner the FBI comes sniffing around.

The final season was released on Netflix this month, and our Book Chat librarians made a list of Ozark-adjacent books featuring dark plots, mysteries, and suspense in rural mountain towns that we think fans of the show would enjoy.

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

When Ree Dolly's father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. With two young brothers depending on her, 16-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. Living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Ree learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But, as an unsettling revelation lurks, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueller than most. His father runs a methodically organised meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than this life.

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws.  For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family's criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can.  But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton's office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.  

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, the novel brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the mountain and its inhabitants: forbidding, loyal, gritty, and ruthless. A story of family—the lengths men will go to protect it, honor it, or in some cases destroy it—Bull Mountain is an incredibly assured debut that heralds a major new talent in fiction.

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood—a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains—a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing—Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.

The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

In The Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O'Connor at her most haunting.

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There's Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can't save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his "prayer log." There's Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America's highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There's the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte's orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.

Donald Ray Pollock braids his plotlines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain.

The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell by Kate Brauning

The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell by Kate Brauning

Nothing is more dangerous than a girl with nothing left to lose. Dinah Caldwell has been filling her father's role since he abandoned their family four years ago. She and her grief-stricken mom run their subsistence farm deep in the Ozarks, making sure her younger brother never has to worry. Until the day Gabriel Gates, who owns everyone in Charlotte County, kills her mother to steal her family's well. Homeless, heartbroken, and alone, Dinah only has a single razor-sharp goal: revenge.

Now that Gates has put a ten-thousand-dollar bounty on her head, she can't trust anyone, but she also can't take down the most powerful man in the mountainsby herself.Her only allies are Kara, Dinah's best friend and secret crush, and Johnny, a young bootlegger who has as much reason to hate Gates as Dinah does. With their help and resources, and maybe even love, she can spark a revolution and set the whole county free—if their combined secrets don't get them all killed first.

The Bones of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

The Bones of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

In the newest Wolfe-family adventure from James Carlos Blake, Rudy and Frank Wolfe are engaging in routine miscellaneous business—some legitimate and some less so—for their family when they stumble upon a stash of high-quality pornographic films in a raid. The plot thickens when their Aunt Catalina, the family matriarch aged 115, recognizes a resemblance to her long-lost sister in one of the young performers. Catalina tasks the boys with tracking the girl down, however improbable a connection may be.

This proves to be no simple task. Soon, Rudy and Frank find themselves moving away from world of porn and towards the upper echelons of the Sinaloa drug cartel, where the mysterious woman has become a particular favorite of the head narco. For their aunt, the woman, and themselves, Frank and Rudy must find a way to extract her from the cartel. A tropical storm threatens their plan but their widespread and steadfast family stands ready to assist them every deadly mile of the way.

Ever daring and innovative, and assisted by the family's ready resources, the Wolfe brothers must run the highest risks in order to achieve the mission assigned them by the Grande Dame.

The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen

The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen

In the Missouri Ozarks, some things aren't talked about ... even abuse. But prosecutor Elsie Arnold is determined to change that. When she is assigned to prosecute a high-profile incest case in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is ready to become the Ozarks' avenging angel.

But as Elsie sinks her teeth into the case, everything begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives. To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists, warning her to mind her own business.

While Elsie swears not to let a sex offender walk, she realizes the odds—and maybe the town—are against her, and her life begins to crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance ...

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother's cruel brand of strength if she's going to face the reality about her daughter's death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother's trailer for a final lesson.

The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family—women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances-—as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.

The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane's mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy's family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family's influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother's daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri's death.
 
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.

Published on May 25, 2022
Last Modified August 10, 2022