Title: The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard
Imprint: Harlequin Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A family’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test
Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn’t been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years—not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny—the high school wrestling star and Kirsten’s older brother. No one knows what to believe—not even those closest to Johnny—but the event unhinges the quiet farming community and pins Kirsten’s family beneath the crushing weight of suspicion.
Now, years later, a new tragedy forces Kirsten and her siblings to return home, where they must confront the devastating event that shifted the trajectory of their lives. Tautly written and beautifully evocative, The Mourning Hours is a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.
The Mourning Hours is a riveting page turner by new author Paula Treick DeBoard. This well-written and suspenseful mystery is a fascinating character study that takes readers deep into the heart of small town rural America following the disappearance of teenager Stacy Lemke.
Kirsten Hammarstrom is nine years old when her brother’s girlfriend disappears one snowy night. As days pass with no new leads, suspicion quickly falls on Johnny. Support from friends and members of their small community quickly disappears and the court of public opinion brands Johnny a killer. The Hammarstrom family is caught in the fallout as they support Johnny, but their own doubts about his innocence stretch this once solid family to the breaking point.
Told in first person from Kirsten’s point of view, most of The Mourning Hours details Johnny and Kirsten’s romance from their first meeting through the aftermath of her disappearance. Kirsten is mature for her age, keenly observant and although she does not always understand the significance of certain events, she is a reliable narrator. Kirsten is enamored of the elegant and well to do Stacy and she is a strong supporter of Stacy and Johnny’s budding romance. But as tension begins to grow between Johnny and his parents over Stacy’s possessiveness, Kirsten begins to have misgivings about Johnny’s involvement with Stacy. Kirsten witnesses some unsettling moments between Stacy and Johnny that will later cause her to doubt Johnny’s innocence after Stacy vanishes.
The Hammarstroms are a close knit family before Stacy enters their life. Their life on the family dairy farm is idyllic and they are well-liked by their neighbors and fellow townspeople. Cracks begin to appear within the family during Johnny’s romance and in the aftermath of Stacy’s disappearance, the stress of the investigation takes a huge toll on this once solid family. Their communities’ indictment of Johnny further strains the Hammarstroms’ marriage and the family is virtually ostracized as the search for Stacy continues.
The Mourning Hours is an engrossing read that is impossible to put down. While not a typical mystery, I had my suspicions as to what happened to Stacy and I was pleasantly surprised to discover my guess was correct. There are a few unanswered questions, but Paula Treick DeBoard provides readers with a emotionally satisfying and hopeful conclusion to this exceptional novel.