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The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

2 Mins read
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Tragedy seems to follow at Lucy Dane’s heels. When she was a little girl Lucy’s beautiful young mother, Lila, vanished after entering a cave known as Old Scratch near the town of Henbane, isolated deep in the Ozark mountains. Residents of the area know everything about everyone and are suspicious of newcomers. At the time the disappearance was the biggest event in the town’s history.

That is until one of Lucy’s friends, Cheri, is found murdered. Her dismembered body has been placed in a tree trunk. Cheri wasn’t a popular girl, Lucy her only true friend. Soon Cheri’s death is forgotten as Henbane’s citizens get on with their lives. No-one seems to be interesting in finding out who her killer was, except for Lucy. One day whilst working she discovers a necklace in an abandoned mobile home, a necklace that Lucy had given Cheri. The girl never took it off. This clue prompts Lucy to want to know more and she begins digging into Cheri’s death. Soon she starts that it might be linked to the disappearance of her mother. But no-one will talk to her. Not her father, nor her uncle. Both of them seem to know more than they’re prepared to admit. But Lucy can’t help herself and will push through to the end, no matter what she might learn…

McHugh’s debut is a very good read. Two timelines stretch through the novel – one past, the other present. The former is driven via Lila’s perspective, the latter via her daughter Lucy. It’s interesting and different, but it does create a few problems. Although the author deals with any confusion by signposting each chapter with the name of the character whose perspective is being told, what isn’t signposted is which timeline the chapter is set within. Early in the novel, when not many characters have been introduced, this is fine. But toward the back third, when a plethora of characters are present, and because there are two stories to understand, it becomes distracting and difficult to follow.

However the author does conjure a sense of place extremely well. As she grew up in the Ozarks, perhaps this is to be expected, but the atmosphere she generates is a cut above most novels. As is the characterisation – the suspicions and behaviours of small town residents are well portrayed. Their lives seem to be forever linked to where they were born and will more than likely die. It’s bleak at times, and McHugh creates excellent tension during the unravelling of this compelling tale.

The narratives really suck you in, driving you to find out what’s happened and why. This is the good side of the two timelines the author uses. There are two deaths to understand and resolve – Cheri’s and Lila’s. The Weight of Blood is a very well written novel. When the strands are drawn together it reaches a conclusion that is not only powerful, but makes sense as well.

Hutchinson
Print/Kindle/ebook
£11.49

CFL Rating: 4 Stars


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