The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of 18209468literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie. – Goodreads.com

A small community in the Ozark Mountains unwelcoming of newcomers seemed like an intriguing setting for a mystery – and I was right.  Laura McHugh is a great storyteller and held my interest throughout the book.

Growing up in a small town myself, I thought Lucy and her friends were very believable teenagers, some with limited choices of a future, and others intent on leaving their small town to experience the outside world.  Lucy’s quest to discover more about her mother and get to know her better in some small way was both touching and heartbreaking.  I liked learning more about her mother through the different perspectives of those who had known her.

The supporting characters were well-developed – Carl, a still grieving single father wanting the best for his daughter and Bessie and Daniel, loyal friends and confidants, but my favorite was probably Birdie.  Seeing her evolve from an aloof woman suspicious of outsiders to her eventual acceptance of Lucy’s mother and then on to substitute grandmother was very heartwarming.

Despite being a compelling read, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the ending.  The mystery and suspense gradually built throughout the story and I was expecting – more, I guess.  I felt like some things were still left unresolved and missed seeing the reactions of some characters to discoveries made near the end.

The Weight of Blood is an impressive debut novel and absolutely worth reading for fans of Southern literature or those who enjoy mystery and suspense.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

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