The most discussable mystery novels come with rich characters possessing complex and realistic reasons for their realistic actions and dripping with atmosphere.
Such is Laura McHugh’s debut, The Weight of Blood. Fans of Daniel Woodrell’s Ozark operas, Winter’s Bone or The Maid’s Version, will find similar layered characters with deeply buried secrets and a steely resolve that pierces right off the page.
There are parallel stories at work in The Weight of Blood. Motherless Lucy is set further adrift when her friend Cheri disappears and a year later is discovered, body in pieces, in a tree next to the river that runs through her small southeast Missouri town of Henbane. In alternating chapters, orphaned Lily is a new arrival to Henbane, trying to start over after leaving her foster home.
As Lucy’s curiosity about Cheri’s death grows, so does her interest in the mother who abandoned her when she was an infant. The two threads begin to intertwine and Lucy finds herself in imminent danger but unable to stop prying into the lives of those around her.
It’s difficult to label this book a “crime novel” even though it’s a crime that gets Lucy’s story moving. However, The Weight of Blood has all the typical crime novel elements that the best discussable mysteries have and keeps readers mulling over more than whodunit. One of the clues is in the title of the book and this post.
McHugh’s first effort made the LibraryReads list for March as a Top Pick. It is certain to be one of those book group sleeper novels that builds with word of mouth.