Laura McHugh‘s debut novel is set in rural, small-town Missouri, deep in the Ozarks. This dark coming-of-age mystery follows a 17-year-old girl determined to investigate the murder of a friend from school, a search which leads to the earlier murder of her own mother.
Told from multiple perspectives, the novel’s strengths include its setting (the author grew up in the Ozarks), pacing, characters and voice. Readers will be propelled by the suspenseful thriller elements of the plot.
I can’t help but think of Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, thanks to the setting, violence, and protagonist. Other reviewers have mentioned True Grit, as well as novels by Laura Lippman and Tana French.
Shelf Awareness ran a “Maximum Shelf” feature on The Weight of Blood, which includes an enlightening interview with the author (but I think their introductory description gives too much away–so skip it if you want to avoid spoilers). Oprah.com included it in a list of 5 Mysteries You’ll Want to Finish in One Night, and it was the top Library Reads pick for March.
MCHUGH, Laura. The Weight of Blood. 320p. Spiegel & Grau. Mar. 2014. Tr $26. ISBN 9780812995206; ebk. ISBN 9780812995213.
At 17, Lucy is growing into the exotic beauty of her mother, Lila, who went missing when Lucy was still a baby. Folks in the small Ozark town of Henbane seem to know everything about each other, but Lucy has never been able to piece together the true story of Lila’s disappearance. She certainly can’t get any information from her father, Carl, or his brother, Uncle Crete. And Lucy is now more preoccupied with the death of her friend, Cheri, whose dismembered body was found stuffed in a tree. The tension of festering secrets pervades the book, which alternates between Lucy’s present-day investigations and Lila’s arrival in Henbane nearly 20 years earlier. There is a dark link between the generations, formed by Uncle Crete’s evil propensities, which threatens to destroy both Lucy’s family and the town that shelters it. Lucy tells her story with the determination of a girl who must have answers. Sneaking out at night, breaking into houses, and pumping everyone she knows for information, she is the girl in horror movies with her hand on the basement door. At the same time, readers begin to understand the terrible fate that has befallen too many girls in Henbane. The level of suspense and horror draw comparisons to Gillian Flynn, whose Sharp Objects (Shaye Areheart Books, 2006) was also set in the Ozark Mountains. The Weight of Blood is well paced, making it the kind of book to devour in one sitting. Teens who like dark mysteries will not want to miss it. —Diane Colson, Nashville Public Library, TN