Shifting power dynamics and changing roles thread themselves through Isabelle Kenyon’s debut novel, The Dark Within Them, as Amy Stone discovers.


The world of faith is anathema to me, so reading a book set deep in one of the more obscure corners of Christianity was definitely out of my comfort zone. But Isabelle Kenyon’s debut novel, The Dark Within Them, makes for a great setting, allowing for some horrifying events.

The white picket fences of Lehi in Utah County and the state’s dusty highways shimmer on the page – they would lend themselves to a compelling movie adaptation. Meanwhile, the narrative follows a mother trying to start a new life in a Mormon community. Amber is a newly-widowed single mum to Gilly and Ivan but there’s a question mark over the circumstances of her abusive husband’s death. Nevertheless, the verdict of natural causes allows her to move on. And boy, does she move on.

Now free to pursue her career as a faith healer, Amber makes an itinerant living, trailing the kids from state to state in order to find new audiences in need of salvation, making a celebrity of herself on the circuit. Amber is a strong, independent woman, full of charisma and poise. Underneath it all, though, she longs for stability, a place to call home and security for her children.

She gravitates towards Chad, a practising Mormon, who, as one of Amber’s fans, attends her retreat. Amber sees Chad and his Mormon hometown of Lehi as everything that she and her children need: he’s a straightforward soul who will worship her and provide a home, a place to finally put down some wholesome roots for her kids.

Needless to say, things don’t go to plan in this gripping, pacy thriller.

Kenyon’s taut prose and relentless momentum propel the reader through a journey that tests the limits of loyalty, faith and family. Here’s a warning: you will be absolutely livid with Amber at various points throughout this book. And here’s an idea: what about a sequel where a therapist unpicks her decision-making processes and helps clients to make better choices? 

Whatever is driving Amber’s life choices, I found the exploration of the ‘believer’ mindset fascinating. The book is told from two different perspectives. The first belongs to Amber, who tries to use faith as a means of achieving life goals, akin to the prosperity gospel. Crucially, Amber begins the journey in control of the power of faith and bends it to her will. The second perspective is from Chad, whose unshakeable faith, not only in God but in the Mormon community, Amber totally underestimates. Her risk-taking leaps of faith have paid off with her career, so why not in her personal life?

Having become accustomed to being somewhat above her faith, she fails to see that, for Chad, faith and the community that fosters it are inextricably linked and this higher power must be obeyed at all costs. Amber gets herself and her kids in way too deep. She is so convinced of her own ability to bend events to her will that she keeps digging, until they are all sealed in a tomb of her own making. The question is, does she deserve to find a way out?

You’ll race through this book: a must-read for fans of Paula Hawkins or M.T. Edvarsson.

By Amy Stone


The Dark Within Them is available to pre-order now. For more information, click here