Laura McHugh's powerful novel is being compared to those of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell. McHugh uses the same rural Ozark environment as Woodrell. If it isn't as depressingly steeped in meth and nihilism as Woodrell, it isn't for lack of trying. But McHugh's writing style clings more to the dysfunctional lifestyle narrations of Gillian Flynn. She even uses a alternating first person narrative as seen in Gone Girl at least for the first third of it when she then spices it up with other characters' viewpoint giving us new glimpses in a mysterious and harrowing tale.
But that is where McHugh leaves the two writers and goes off on her own original tale. Seventeen years old Lucy's best friend's body is discovered and appears to have been murdered. It evokes strong feeling in Lucy not just for her friends but for her mother who disappeared shorty after her birth. Lucy begins an investigation into her friend's death while she also tries to find out more about her mother's mysterious disappearance. In alternating chapters, we hears Lucy's mother Lila's tale which starts eighteen years previously and before Lucy is born. The story is dark but not so dark that there are not noble characters and honest emotions in it. It is a tale of family secrets with plenty of twists and turn for the mystery fan but a also a novel where family interaction may be dysfunctional but are truly felt. Lucy is a very strong protagonist whose bond with her friend, who is more of a local misfit than she is, becomes a strong catalyst and makes Lucy the most endearing person in the book. My only complain is that some of the interaction of the brothers, Lucy's father and uncle, seem forced. I felt that Carl was a little too loyal to Crete, enough so to stretch plot credibility. But it is a minor complain considering how well the plot moves and how well the author weaves in the various narrations to make a coherent and exhilarating whole. Recommended.