Friday, June 3, 2016

Missing Pieces

It’s said that three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth. Credence is given to that statement in Heather Gudenkauf’s latest thriller, Missing Pieces, in which betrayal starts not in big lies but in small secrets that threaten to undermine and possibly destroy a marriage.

From the publisher: “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…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.”

Heather Gudenkauf is one of my go-to authors. whose books always deliver gripping stories with the twist and turns you expect from this genre. In addition to intriguing plots, she also has a great facility to convey small town life and the close-knit bonds found there. In Missing Pieces, Gudenkauf has once again delivered a suspenseful tale set in an idyllic rural American town. For years, Jack Quinlan’s fears and shame put him on a path of lies to those closest to him, namely his wife Sarah. Returning to the scene of the crime as they say, Sarah begins to uncover simple truths about her husband, and quickly comes to fear that one lie is enough to question all truths. Who is this man she thought she knew so well, and what else is he hiding?

Overall, I enjoyed Missing Pieces, though I didn't love it. The pacing was smooth, albeit slower than the relentless pedal to the metal speed found in some thrillers; nonetheless, enough to keep you curious and turning pages. Unfortunately, the characters could have been better fleshed out and while Sarah made for a good narrator with an outsider's perspective, dubious of one and all, I would have loved to have the benefit of Jack’s point of view; to be inside his head, especially during the key past moments that were integral to his own tale.

As for our narrator, Sarah, while I sympathized with her sense of betrayal, I also felt she was way too quick to believe the worst of a man with whom she’d spent the whole of her adult life. Sure a lie here and there can (and probably would) mar the image you have of someone you’ve idealized in your own heart and mind, but after being married for 20 years with two adult children together, you can’t tell me that there wouldn’t be a thousand and one other moments that could have been given equal weight to a few lies in shedding light on someone’s character and goodness. Ballsy at times, too hand-wringing in others, she was a contradiction I found annoying at times.

In short, though not a stellar example of Gudenkauf’s usual quality writing, Missing Pieces, was a relatively suspenseful read that captured the human frailties of sin and evil which can hide behind a friendly small town smile.