The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

weightBook - Family is everything in small towns, but Lucy Dane has a hole in hers. Her mother Lila disappeared when Lucy was just a baby, and people in town still gossip about her, suggesting witchcraft or something worse was behind her sudden appearance and disappearance in their small Ozark town. Then Lucy’s friend Cheri disappears, and her body is found in horrifying condition near the edge of town, and Lucy finds herself investigating the web of secrets surrounding these two women’s disappearances.

It’s not just the setting that The Weight of Blood has in common with Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, it’s a whole atmosphere, a paradoxical sense of claustrophobia in the wide-open, tight-knit rural world of the Ozarks. This is McHugh’s first novel, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she writes, as smooth and confident as any more seasoned writer, and with an excellent grip on her readers’ emotions. Set some time aside when you start this one – I ended up canceling my weekend plans to finish it!

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The Beautiful MysteryBook -  I picked up this book on audio, because it was billed as one of the best mysteries on audio, it received starred reviews from Library Journal, BookList, and Publisher’s Weekly and received numerous awards including the Agatha.  I was not disappointed by this locked room mystery. It is set in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupes on a remote Island in the wilderness of Quebec. No outsiders are allowed in the monastery of 24 monks who live a serene and very isolated life, but Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are summoned to investigate the murder of Frère Mathieu, the monastery’s renowned choirmaster and prior. The investigation is difficult as the monks in the community haven taken a vow of silence. Ironically they have become world famous for a CD of their singing Gregorian chants. Their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as the beautiful mystery. The investigators soon find grim discords among the seemingly unified and peaceful brothers as they search for the motive and murderer.  This is the eighth book in the Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries. I now plan on reading the entire series. This book should appeal to fans of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case HistoriesBook - Three unresolved cases in England span twenty-four years. Case One involves the disappearance of three-year-old Olivia Land. Case Two involves the brutal, seemingly random, murder of eighteen-year-old Laura Wyre. Case Three involves Michelle, a new young mother who feels a murderous rage at being stuck alone out in the country with only her baby and husband for company. As private detective Jackson Brodie begins to look into the cases, he unearths startling discoveries and connections between the cases. We also get glimpses into Jackson’s own tragic past. As he comes to resolutions in the cases, he begins to make peace with his own history. This book was a page-turner and I enjoyed the plot’s twists and turns. It’s told from several different perspectives, which helps illuminate the hopes, struggles and failings of the characters. Despite the dark topics, the novel offers an overall message of hope and healing.

Defending Jacob

defending jacobBook – The unthinkable and disturbing has happened, a  14-year-old boy, has been brutally stabbed to death in the woods near a city park in a  small, middle-class Massachusetts town.  The boy turns out to be 14 year old Ben Rifkin, the classmate of Jacob Barber, son of Andy, who is the Assistant District Attorney. Andy focuses on a neighborhood pedophile as the chief suspect.  But soon Andy must face the unthinkable. Internet accusations posted on Facebook by Jacob’s friends and his bloody fingerprint on the victim’s clothes result in his son Jacob becoming the prime suspect.  Jacob also admits to showing off a knife to his friends. Andy finds the knife and immediately makes it disappear. But does he do it to protect his son’s innocence or hide his guilt?  Jacob’s mother, Laurie, struggles with the haunting suspicion that her son might be capable of such a horrific crime. As soon as Jacob is arrested, Andy Barber is taken off the case and suspended from his office.  He devotes himself and puts all of his resources into proving his son’s innocence.  This is a must read legal thriller and family saga.  The ending will rock your world. The author, Willam Landay, is a former DA turned writer.  His other books include Mission Flats and The Strangler. His books should appeal to fans of John Grisham and Scott Turow.  Defending Jacob is also a good selection for book clubs.