Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Iris Jenkins knows that bad things happen. She’s tried to escape these things for years. So when Iris is entrusted to house-sit at a lodge on the South Dakota prairie, she thinks she’s prepared for anything.

But one surprise is Sawyer Jones, the property’s neighbor and caretaker. He’s a caring, reassuring presence who’s making her feel safe and alive again. Then late one night, Iris hears a chilling cry for help coming from a walkie-talkie buried in a box of toys. As the calls get more desperate, personal, and menacing, Iris realizes the person on the other end isn’t reaching out for help. They’re reaching out to terrorize her.

Now the only way for Iris to move forward in life is to confront the past she’s been running from…a threat that has now followed her into the dark.

A single mother faces her worst fear—the past—in this provocative novel of suspense by the author of The Speed of Light, Elissa Grossell Dickey. The Big Thrill caught up with her to learn more:

Was there anything new you discovered or that surprised you as you wrote this book?

I discovered that my stories seem to lend themselves to dual timelines—I enjoy weaving together the past and the present.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

Basically, I like writing stories that are dark but hopeful—stories about everyday women who don’t know their own strength until they are faced with darkness.

Elissa Grossell Dickey

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

The prairie setting is almost a character in itself. In a way, this story is a love letter to the South Dakota prairie that I moved to twenty years ago. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and yet it can be desolate and isolating, illustrated partially by Iris finding old pictures of a prairie family from a century ago. I tried to use all of this to really punctuate Iris’s chilling experiences.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Gillian Flynn and Ruth Ware are two thriller authors whose books have had a big impact on me and my stories. They are able to weave compelling characters and absorbing plot into unputdownable storiesthe kind of stories I hope to write.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

It started with the idea of Iris as a character. As women and especially moms, we’re often told our fears are over the top or unwarranted, so I wanted to tap into that experience and create a main character who is definitely flawed, somewhat unlikeable, and yet ultimately relatable. As Iris’s story started to develop, I was looking for a way for her troubled past to present itself—and it did when my son and I were cleaning his toy room, and a random voice came through the walkie talkie he was playing with. (At the time, I quickly shut it off, but I stored away the creepy experience and wrote it into the story!)

One important question the book touches on is: Who do we believe?

It seems that too often, victims must be perceived as flawless in order for their claims to be believed. Iris is well-intentioned but flawed, and when she first reports the mysterious voice, she is not believed by law enforcement. The book challenges this, and I hope readers challenge themselves to allow people to be both flawed and credible.


Elissa Grossell Dickey is the author of The Speed of Light and IRIS IN THE DARK. A former journalist and blogger for the National MS Society, Elissa now works in higher education communications and marketing. Originally from northern Minnesota, Elissa now lives in South Dakota with her husband and children.

Learn more at