The debut novel of author David Joy, Where All Light Tends to Go, is exactly what I thought it would be when I picked it up. In the vain of Daniel Woodrell at his most brutal and Donald Ray Pollock without the ironic absurdity, this is a solid piece of Southern Noir, filled with sequences soaked with the sticky air of the places it is set and the blood of those who those who fall victim to it’s unforgiving landscapes. Right off the bat, the book gets the setting right. It is modern enough to where the story can be relatable as well as breathtakingly urgent, but there is enough mystery and foreignness for readers to feel the tension Joy is creating, and the hidden dangers that lie within the crevices of this place. My complaints are, there, but they are minor, and I will get to them eventually. The story begins as Jacob McNeely, a young man living in the woods of South Carolina, watches a group of kids graduating high school from the confines of a water tower. It is a very symbolic image to begin this story of cruel fates and lost hope. Jacob dropped out of high school to work under his dad, a ruthless and cold-blooded meth dealer. He is smart, for sure, but that is hidden by his almost neurotic passion to escape and his love for his ex, Maggie, who is destined to leave their small town and achieve success. After a brutal botched murder, one involving acid, Jacob finds himself at a great crossroads: he could follow his dreams, and Maggie, and make something of himself, and if he doesn’t, he may end up, or might as well be, dead. When this book works, it’s something to behold, like the aforementioned acid scene, the evil at the heart of Jacob’s dad, and the downbeat, defeatist yet well-written finale that took my breath away. Where the book may fall flat for some is in its lack of depth in the story department, and the cliché romance between Jacob and Maggie, complete with questionable dialogue. But that in no way distracts from what was a fun and entertaining story of redemption and the bloody paths that await some of those who dare to rise above their fates.