Dark Ride: A Thriller (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Lou Berney is the multiple award-winning author of Dark Ride, November Road, and The Long and Faraway Gone, as well as Gutshot Straight and Whiplash River. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University.
"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
"Berney’s pitch-perfect portrait of the mellowest of dudes on a hero’s journey is both hilarious and terrifying.” — AirMail (12 Best Mystery Books of 2023)
“Only Lou Berney could create Hardly, one of the most endearing characters in recent memory. Writing in his Hardly’s guileless, hilariously dude-ish narrative voice, Berney is incapable of producing a wrong or unnecessary sentence.” — Air Mail
“An insightful look at being an adult, taking responsibility and discovering your inner power.” — South Florida Sun Sentinel
“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)
“Hardly’s trajectory is helped by Berney’s superb writing; sometimes self-consciously noir…, sometimes just colorful…, it adds both gravity and grace to the protagonist’s stubborn, self-destructive path. The whole novel is worth it for the poignant beauty of the final paragraph.” — Kirkus
"[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)
"Occasionally I’ll read a new book that is so exciting, engaging and beautifully conceived that I cannot wait to write about it and share my latest discovery with readers everywhere. … I just found a novel that is so incredible I wanted to tell you about it. The book is Dark Ride by Lou Berney. … so inspiring, thrilling, and exhilarating, I could not put this book down, devouring it in one sitting.”
— Dayton Daily News
“Dark Ride proves to be one of the most engaging books of the year. Lou Berney gives us a protagonist we root for not only to save the day but to improve his life. The storytelling is crisp and clear with deft, nuanced touches that give it a grounded quality." — The Hard Word
"[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
"Remarkable.... Lou Berney’s artistry as a writer hits you in the heart and tugs hard at your soul. This tense and riveting thriller unfolds in the shadow of the assassination of JFK and is a deeply moving love story about people caught in moral dilemmas for which there are no easy answers and who together find hope against all odds. It will stay with you long after you read the final page.... Berney is a writer to be read and admired. This is a staggeringly brilliant book and a flat-out terrific read.” — Don Winslow, New York Times bestselling author, on November Road
“I am really enjoying a down-and-dirty thriller, November Road by Lou Berney. Cold, violent, and clever. You might enjoy it too.” — R. L. Stine on November Road
“Nothing less than an instant American classic. Haunting, thrilling—and indelible as a scar.” — A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on November Road
“When people say they want to read a really good novel, the kind you just can’t put down, this is the kind of book they mean. Exceptional.” — Stephen King on November Road
“Berney’s emotional, empathic writing keeps the dynamic between these two lost souls intriguing, and it resonates on a larger scale, placed as it is against such a vivid backdrop. In the tradition of great historical fiction, Berney finds within an exhaustively covered setting his own nooks and crannies. Do we need a conspiracy plot to keep this very human story humming? Probably not. But Berney’s a skilled dramatist too, and there’s no complaint from this reader on his keeping the pages turning.” — Entertainment Weekly on November Road
This superior novel from Edgar winner Lou Berney melds crime fiction with a tale about people reinventing themselves, played out during a cross-country automobile trip.… An emotional story about the power of love and redemption through sacrifice with the backdrop of a crucial historical moment.”? — Associated Press on November Road
“Berney’s gentle, descriptive writing brilliantly reflects these times of both disillusionment and hope.... As the title suggests, there is an autumnal, melancholic sense of loss at the heart of the novel, yet still, the loss is not destructive or debilitating. It is the kind of loss that gives way to a new world order. Perfectly captures these few weeks at the end of 1963—all that was lost and all that lay tantalizingly and inevitably just beyond the horizon.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on November Road
“Wistful and complex, Berney’s confident portrait of a roadside America traumatized by Kennedy’s death gives the novel literary heft, while the ticking clock of the mob closing in on the family to settle accounts lends a genre bite." — Library Journal (starred review) on November Road
“Berney creates nail-biting suspense by placing Marcello’s top hit man on Guidry’s trail, the book’s power derives from Charlotte, who finds hidden strength as she confronts unexpected challenges. This is much more than just another conspiracy thriller.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) on November Road
“Berney bends his notes exquisitely, playing with the melody, building his marvelously rich characters while making us commit completely to the love story, even though we hear the melancholy refrain and see the noir cloud lurking in the sky. Pitch-perfect fiction.” — Booklist (starred review) on November Road
“A fast-paced, sexy novel, packed with spine-tingling intrigue and money-induced lust...Excellent.” — Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas) on Gutshot Straight
“A fast-paced, sexy novel, packed with spine-tingling intrigue and money-induced lust...Excellent.” — Abraham Rodriguez, 2009 Dashiell Hammett Award finalist and author of South by South Bronx on Gutshot Straight