Title: Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband’s family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf
Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.
Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.
In Heather Gudenkauf’s newest release, Missing Pieces, Sarah Quinlan grows suspicious of her husband Jack after learning he has been lying about his past for the last twenty years.
As soon as Jack gets the news that his beloved Aunt Julia has been gravely injured in a fall, he and Sarah make a hurried trip to his rural hometown in Iowa. It does not take long for Jack’s carefully constructed past to come tumbling down when his sister Amy makes cryptic comments about their family home, where their cousin Dean and his wife Celia now reside. Pressing her husband for answers, Sarah quickly learns that Jack’s parents did not die in a car crash as he has long professed. She is stunned to discover his mother, Lydia, was bludgeoned to death in the cellar of their farmhouse when Jack was fifteen years old and that his long missing father John remains the prime suspect in her murder. When Julia unexpectedly succumbs to her injuries, the Quinlan family falls under suspicion when Sheriff Verne Gilmore announces she was the victim of foul play.
Sarah’s shock and distress over Jack’s lies is understandable as is her search for answers, but her immediate suspicions about him make it difficult to like her. Given the circumstances with his aunt’s precarious health, it is little wonder he has the desire or energy to rehash his sordid past. Jack’s downplaying of old relationships is definitely cause for concern but Sarah’s resulting jealousy seems misplaced.
Sarah does not give Jack the benefit of the doubt upon learning he deliberately mislead her about his past nor does she give him much of a chance to explain his reasons for his deception. Instead, with each new discovery, she grows convinced he killed his mother and although there is no way he is responsible for his aunt’s initial injuries, she cannot help but wonder if he had a hand in her death as well.
Turning to an unlikely source for help, Sarah manages to get the police reports from his mother’s murder. As she listens to his police interviews and reads the witness statements, a troubling picture soon emerges about fifteen year old Jack and she becomes certain he is responsible for Lydia’s death. This quick indictment of her husband clouds Sarah’s judgment and gives her tunnel vision during her amateur investigation of both murders.
Events unfold at a breakneck speed and there is a strong sense of urgency to discover the truth as Sarah tries to piece together the truth about what happened to Jack’s mother and his Aunt Julia. Sheriff Gilmore’s primary concern is finding Julia’s killer and although certain he has the right person in custody, he continues searching for evidence. He eventually makes a shocking discovery that casts doubt on his theory about Lydia’s death but whether this has any bearing on his current investigation remains unclear. When Sarah finally understands the meaning behind a puzzling series of e-mails, she is certain she has uncovered the motive for the murders, but only time will tell if her supposition is correct.
Despite a few improbable plot points and a somewhat unsympathetic lead protagonist, Missing Pieces is an intriguing mystery that is quite riveting. Heather Gudenkauf cleverly conceals the both the motive for the murders and the killer’s identity right up until the novel’s dramatic conclusion. All in all, a suspense-laden novel that fans of the genre will enjoy.