Eve Knox disappeared just before Christmas from her small town in Iowa. She was a high school sophomore, and her body was found later that night in a cave outside of town. Despite a number of suspects, including an abusive high-school boyfriend, the killer was never found. Now it’s 25 years later, and Eve’s best friend Maggie, who along with Eve’s sister found her body in the cave that long-ago night, is a police detective in their hometown. New evidence has been found, leading to a re-opening of the case. Can Maggie, seven months pregnant after years of trying to have a baby, find the killer without turning her own life upside down?
I’m always drawn to Heather Gudenkauf’s novels, including This Is How I Lied (2020), because they have interesting premises and they are set in my part of Iowa, in towns that are somewhat disguised but recognizable to me. And I always come away disappointed with vaguely drawn characters, some ridiculous plot points, and a general sloppiness that I’m more inclined to blame on her editor than on her, to be honest. Whenever an author writes in one paragraph that her character had reached through a picket fence and undone the latch to enter a backyard, then inexplicably two paragraphs later writes the character as looking into the backyard through the fence from the outside, an editor has not earned their wings. And the first-person narration shifts from present to past tense within the same sentence, then back again. Pick a lane, people!
For all of that, this is not a bad book. I never felt tempted to Pearl-rule it, and I don’t regret reading it. Indeed, someone less neurotic about grammar may well enjoy this book. I myself have often overlooked inconsistencies when a book is otherwise engaging. There’s a reason I read so many of Martha Grimes’ Inspector Jury mysteries: Grimes created memorably quirky characters and had a gift for scenic description that made me feel I was right there. Who was I to quibble if I finished the book unsure exactly why the Who had Dun It? Alas, Ms. Gudenkauf has many of the faults and few of the assets of Ms. Grimes.
I have decided I’m no longer going to fall for the “but it’s Iowa” urge and let this author go. Of course, I said that the last time, too …