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Thursday, December 10, 2015


4 stars out of 5

Right off the bat, I'll admit fighting the urge to give this one 3.5 stars. But the plot seemed believable to me, the pace was fast enough to hold my attention throughout and better still, for the most part kept me guessing all the way to the end. At issue is the fact that I had a tough time relating to the main character; but in all fairness, my objection touches on a personal bias that really doesn't have much bearing on the quality of writing, so I upped my score to 4.

The story begins as Sarah Quinlan returns with her husband Jack to his hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa, after he learns that his Aunt Julia, who raised him and his rather wigged-out sister Amy, fell down the stairs and is in a coma. Jack, who's always been closed-mouthed about his parents (revealing only that were killed when he was a teenager), hasn't returned to the area since before he and Sarah were married 20 years earlier.

Soon thereafter, Julia dies, and details about Jack's childhood experiences begin to emerge. Sarah - a former reporter turned advice columnist - starts to dig deeper into the events of her husband's past. In the process, she unearths "secrets" surrounding the death of his parents that could put other family members - and perhaps Sarah herself - in danger. From that point on, it's a race to get to the truth before someone else bites the dust (as for how all that turns out, of course, my lips are sealed).

What turned me off, though, is that I have no sympathy for hand-wringing females like Sarah, whose angst jumped to 9.5 on the Richter Scale the second she concluded that her husband of two decades is a lying, cheating scumbag  - or worse - simply because he failed to tell her every tiny aspect of his past. He didn't share names of all the girls he dated in high school? Oh, the horror! Granted, there are a few relatively important things he probably should have mentioned somewhere along the way; but it's 20 years and two kids later, woman - get over it. Somewhere around the 50% mark, I decided the best ending for me would be learning that he'd kicked her sorry butt to the curb (no, I won't reveal that outcome, either).

That off my chest, this is a good, solid mystery that gave me plenty of motivation to keep reading (I finished it easily in a couple of days). I had suspicions about how it would all come together, but I had to wait till the final pages to find out for sure. For those who don't mind a goodly dose of melodrama with their suspense, I give it a big thumbs up, and I thank the publisher (via NetGalley) for providing me with an advance copy for review.

Missing Pieces by Heathrer Gudenkauf (Harlequin Digital Sales Corp., February 2016); 288 pp.

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