Missing Pieces – Heather Gudenkauf

Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

This was the first time I had been introduced to Heather Gudenkauf’s work, the novel Missing Pieces sounded captivating and edge of your seat kind of reading, I was desperate to read a copy. Read over a couple of days, if that, I was not disappointed, the characters were engrossing, the storyline consuming and the plot very realistic.

How well do we really know the people we love?

This was the very question Sarah Quinlan asked herself over and over again through this fast paced thriller. Her husband has kept his past locked away, a secret, hidden from all, hidden from the woman he loves and married, if everything unravelled how do you think you would react? like Sarah?

The Quinlans are cast within Missing Pieces as a tight knit family group, Jack is secretive but not a deceitful man, one who wanted to forget his harrowing past so he simply rewrote his history, any teenager who went through such desolation would want to do the same. Slowly as the truth seeps through the fractured cracks Sarah is questioning him at every turn wondering how much she really knows about the man she loves. This is a story of a past, present and future, the strength of love and history making a come back and catching up with all those who buried it long ago.

My favourite character is Amy Quinlan, the sister of Jack, the young girl of 11 who lost her mum in grotesque misfortune and as the years have past her by the one who appears to have gone off the rails growing selfish, angry and isolated with bitter intent. There is more to her than meets the eye, or is that simply just the clever writing from Gudenkauf.

I thoroughly connected with Gudenkauf’s writing style, the warmth in her words involving the farmhouse descriptions left me craving rough stone shambles, old time farm buildings inclusive of mud and nasty weather. The tension in the scenes involving discussions around the police investigation, suspects and accusations which were flying around the family were written with clarity and depth making the reader feel the accusing undertones directed at each other without the words being spoken.

I found the developing relationship between Margaret and Sarah a nice touch, in a short space of time they form a warm close bond all in the name of finding the truth and the justice for a small place on the map to allow the dead to finally rest in peace. As Margaret risks her job for Sarah she does it with a good heart of finding justice and bringing peace to Penny Gate after living 30 years with an unsolved murder, this is also a demonstration of the loyalty within a small community and the unassuming nature of a warm hearted woman who wants to do the right thing.

When the ‘Missing Pieces’ finally begin to fall into place the book picks up speed and runs fast

I was guessing at everyone being the culprit and as things began to unfold and old secrets were uncovered I was at a lost for suspects with no idea where the novel was headed. The conclusion was satisfying and tied everything together for a clean cut completion.

Excellent reading, I would certainly recommend this to my friends. Praise for Heather Gudenkauf and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.



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