Book Review: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

We Are All the Same in the Dark…

About the Book:

Ten years ago, Trumanell Branson disappeared.

Her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah, cleared of any involvement but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion.

So, when he finds a lost girl he believes she is a sign, someone to lead him to his sister and finally clear his name. Instead she leads him to young police officer Odette Tucker. She knows they must tread carefully – the town, still waiting for its missing girl to come home, is a tinderbox and this new arrival might just set it alight.

My Thoughts:

This is the third novel I’ve read by Julia Heaberlin, all of them set in Texas, all of them a hybrid of crime/police procedural/suspense, and all of them absolutely excellent. She has quietly become one of my favourite authors, the atmosphere she infuses into her novels combined with the unique characterisation and pitch perfect plotting all ensuring that I know I’m going to get a guaranteed good read without even needing to know anything about the story prior to cracking that spine.

‘Texas is a beautiful poison you drink from your mother’s breast; the older you get and the farther you run, the more it pounds in your blood.’

I have to say straight up, Texas worries me. The number of guns in purses, cars, pockets, all over people’s houses; seriously, I don’t know the murder stats but they can’t be low. And it’s this gun violence within the domestic setting that forms the bones of this story. A cold case that leads to another crime that turns into a cold case, like a web of violence stretching far and wide, catching people up in it without prejudice or warning.

‘The record playing right now outside this jail cell is “Amazing Grace.” The crowd has rolled into a rousing version that is leaking through every crack in the walls. My uncle told me that a slave trader wrote that hymn in the 1700s. The man was an obscene human being most of his life, maybe all of it. But it doesn’t matter. We worship that song. Our souls are saved with it. We sing it to bury our dead. It’s like everything else: The whole dark truth is drowned out by a catchy melody.’

This novel is sad, in a heartbreakingly deep-seated way that only comes from knowing the truth that underpins the plot and the way in which such social welfare problems persist without any outlook to them changing. There were so many avoidable tragedies within this story, just as there are in real life, so many abuses of power and so many times that children and young people were let down, not just by the system but by the communities that are meant to be there for them, and also, most tragically of all, by their families which often times were the most harmful to them.

‘We’re members of the Bad Childhood Club. We don’t push. We don’t need details or proof. I don’t know how Emmaline lost her teeth, but I would have laid down my life for her. I don’t know how Mary got the scar on her cheek, and she doesn’t know how I lost my eye, but I still feel like we crawled inside and lived in the shell of each other, that our blood, our DNA, runs together.’

This story is told from three perspectives, initially Wyatt, then Odette, and finishing up with Angel. All three perspectives were gripping and unexpected in the directions they headed, particularly Odette’s. I felt bonded to each of these characters and marvelled at Julia Heaberlin’s constant ability to colour her characters all shades of grey, igniting both suspicion and empathy in equal measure within as I read. The supporting characters had much to offer too, Rusty in particular was a standout for me and I liked him a lot. You just don’t quite know where you are with each of the characters within this novel, not able to fully put your finger on the pulse of who is good, who is evil, and who is bit of both, such is the cleverness of Julia Heaberlin’s character crafting.

‘This photo unlocked a place on my head where their beloved faces are no longer human and everything is meaningless, meaningless decay.’

The story kept me guessing right the way through, and the moment of reveal, who did what, astonished me and reconfirmed just how much of a wolf in sheep’s clothing some people can be. It also reminded me again the terrible lengths that people will go to in order to avenge their own outrage, take justice into their own hands, and then act accordingly in order to forever cover their trail. This novel explores many issues of child welfare, family violence, community abuse, and the consequences of prolific gun use within a society. Julia Heaberlin’s latest release is as on point as her previous ones, and utterly gripping right the way through.


About the Author:

Julia Heaberlin grew up in Decatur, Texas, a small town that sits under a big sky. It provided a dreamy girl with a great library, a character behind every door, and as many secrets as she’d find anyplace else. An award-winning journalist, she has worked as an editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News and the Detroit News. She lives near Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband and has a son who attends the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently at work on her next novel of suspense.

We Are All the Same in the Dark
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released 9th July 2020

6 thoughts on “Book Review: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

  1. I didn’t recognize her name but when I checked, I had put two of them on my Goodreads TBR. This sounds like a good author for me and for a Christmas present for my sister, who has an annoying habit of saying, “I’ve already read that!”

    Liked by 1 person

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