When I go into a bookstore, I nearly always browse in the "New and Recommended" section first. This marketing technique totally works for me. I like to see what's trending and in particular, what people who work at the store are promoting. Bookstore employees seem to universally be bookworms themselves.
A few weeks ago, I found Laura McHugh's debut novel, The Weight of Blood, on the front table in Vroman's Bookstore. Honestly, if this book had not been on the front table, I'd likely have completely over-looked it. The cover ( not the one pictured here), was a bit cheesy and it looked like a pulpy crime drama. However, something told me to pick it up and take a closer look. I was immediately grabbed with the first few paragraphs and the premise, so I decided to chance it.
PLOT - Set in the Ozark Mountains, The Weight of Blood , begins with the river bank discovery of body parts belonging of a young local girl, who has been brutally dismembered. The girl is Cheri, a childhood friend of Lucy Dane. Lucy can't shake the idea of her friend being murdered and she begins to piece together the truth of what happened to Cheri. The story is half about the murder mystery and half about Lucy's mother, who mysteriously disappeared when Lucy was a baby. The town of Henbane has some dark secrets that are waiting to be spilled.
LIKE - McHugh is a powerful writer. There were many moments that I just stopped and reread passages, because they were so evocative and beautiful. She did a great job at putting me right into the middle of the action, even when the moments were uncomfortable and squirmy. I found the plot to be compelling, especially towards the beginning of the story. These characters have strong motives and terrible secrets, making for a juicy story. I liked the setting, which is its own character. I'd read a blurb that compared The Weight of Blood, to the film, Winter's Bone. I loved Winter's Bone and with regard to place and characters, there are strong similarities. The overall tone is similar in both.
DISLIKE - The Weight of Blood had a very strong opening. I was gripped. However, I began to lose interest by the middle of the story. I think that there was too much going on here, especially with it being told through multiple perspectives. There wasn't a good twist or surprise, as the story was very clearly laid out. It's easy to understand how Cherie was killed early in the story and the mystery switches to Lucy's ability to expose the murderer, without getting killed herself. This is far less interesting than the initial mystery of what happened to Cheri.
RECOMMEND - Maybe. There is so much in The Weight of Blood that is well crafted, but I didn't enjoy the entire story arc. However, I did enjoyed reading McHugh's writing, which will definitely prompt me to seek out her future books.