Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (5/5)

Thursday, 10 July 2014
A gripping debut psychological crime novel about family lies and dark secrets in an isolated community as a series of women go missing.

People still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother who vanished years ago from the town of Henbane, deep in the Ozark mountains.

When one of Lucy’s friends is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost women: by the mother she never knew, and the friend she couldn’t protect.

But her search for answers, in a place where secrets are easily concealed, leads her to a chilling discovery.

And with this revelation, she must grapple with the meaning of family, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

The setting of this book was brilliant, and was the main draw to the novel for me when I was asked if I would like to review it. Recently I've been looking for crime fiction set in places which I've never read about before, it makes a change from the usual settings of London or the main US cities which now in comparison come across as quite boring. Alongside the setting you also learn things about a part of the world you may not have heard of before. If like me you are interested in the setting or premise of this book, then read a guest post from the author here about the inspiration behind the book.

The book opens and we meet Lucy. Written in the first person we immediately get inside her head. Her friend Cheri's body was recently found mutilated after she disappeared. After a furore in the town during the disappearance and subsequent discovery it seems to have now died down and people are moving on with their life. Before Cheri's murder it was the disappearance of Lucy's mother that was the biggest story in town. Alternating chapters introduce us to the character of Lila who just so happens to be Lucy's mother. I found it worked incredibly well having chapters from the POV of both characters and it wasn't hard to follow at all. We know Lucy's mother disappears but it's fascinating reading about her moving to the town and her attempt at trying to build a life there.

I was speechless at where this story went and I wasn't expecting it. If I'm honest the first couple of chapters I struggled with, but once the book got going I was gripped and wide awake long into the night unable to stop reading. It's impossible to even mention plot details here, what we have is an incredible and multilayered story wove to perfection by the author.

Overall the book feels very authentic. Not just in terms of setting but also the characterisation. In these remote or less populated places of the world the people that inhabit these areas are often very different to the people that inhabit major cities, they often have their own nuances, behaviours and belief systems and Laura definitely brought those out in each of the characters we read about in this book. Small towns also seem to band together more than big towns. The people know everyone else's business. Plenty of shocks and cover ups here. It's a book where you question every character you meet, you don't know who to trust and everybody has something to hide.

It was an interesting read and has left me wanting to find out more about the Ozarks. The writing here is superb, very descriptive and of a very high quality I'd say it's one of the best written books that I've read so far this year. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author in the future. Also books which have elements based on true stories are always the more hard hitting for me and leave more of an emotional impact than a truly fictional story. Quite uncomfortable subjects discussed here but told in an intelligent and gripping way. Not a book to miss this one and very highly recommended.

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