Mysterious characters, a large helping of suspense, dark family secrets, and a gritty southern rural setting – all elements that will call out to me and set me to reading a book. Laura McHugh’s debut novel The Weight of Blood has all of those elements and more.
The fact that the book was set in a poor area of the Ozarks in rural Missouri immediately reminded me of Daniel Woodrell’s creepy novel-made-into-a-movie Winter’s Bone, a book I liked 100 percent because of the setting. The Weight of Blood had the same sort of sinister atmosphere.
Lucy Dane’s mother apparently walked into a cave and disappeared when Lucy was a baby. Her disappearance has haunted both Lucy and her father Carl for almost two decades. How could someone who people say so loved her daughter abandon her?
Many years later, Lucy’s friend Cheri, a teenager who most believe is developmentally disabled, is found murdered and dismembered. Reminded of her mother, Lucy undertakes her own investigation. The harder she works at finding the truth, the clearer it becomes that her own family has its own sinister secrets. Running into roadblock after roadblock from friends and family alike, it becomes clear that lots of people know more than they are saying, and there are things she may not want to learn. Only her friend Daniel will help her find out the truth.
McHugh’s writing is good, and kept me reading into the night. At first glance, her characters seem to be black hat/white hat, but as the novel progresses, some of the gray begins to display itself. These are characters you don’t easily forget, even after the book is finished. McHugh paints a clear picture about what it’s like to live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else and blood is thicker than water.
The ending held little surprise, but was satisfying. I would recommend this book for the setting and the memorable characters, but only if you are in the mood for somber reading.