Missing Pieces, by Heather Gudenkauf****

missingpiecesSarah and Jack Quinlan are called to his family’s home in Penny Gate, Iowa when Jack’s aunt is in a serious accident. Julia is not just any aunt; she has been his surrogate mother following the death of both his parents in a car accident. At least, that’s what he tells Sarah. But as she soon finds out, she has been misled about Jack’s early life; in fact, she’s been lied to. What she has to find out on her own is where the lies end and the truth begins.

Thank you twice, once to Net Galley and again to MIRA publishing house for the DRC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. This book is available for purchase February 2, 2016.

Gudendauf is an experienced writer with two best sellers under her belt already. Her expertise shows. One revelation after another darkens the novel, creating an ominous, compelling sense of dread. Who can Sarah trust in this tiny, insular town where just about everyone seems to know more about her husband and his family than she does?

Sarah is a journalist, and her curiosity is at fever pitch. So much is at stake here; her marriage, her family…and ultimately, her personal safety. Threatening messages are sent to her, and then one unfortunate incident after another lets her know she has worn out her welcome. I would’ve likely gotten on the plane and hightailed it home in her place, but she is determined to see it through. She can’t make any decisions for herself or her daughters until she knows what is real, and what is a fabrication.

I read multiple galleys at a time, and often I have more than one mystery going simultaneously as well. This one grabbed my attention above the others, arresting my attention until it was done. It was a fast read, partly because of the amount of dialogue, and partly because the pacing is so expertly done. Gudenkauf builds suspense like nobody else.

Until the ninety percent mark, I considered this to be a five star read, hands down. My only reservation has to do with the denouement, that final ten percent which seems contrived for the sake of surprising the reader, even though it makes very little sense. I find myself remembering an old episode of The Muppets in which Miss Piggy is working a jigsaw puzzle. Someone tells her that the piece she is trying to work into a hole in the puzzle doesn’t actually fit there, and she shrieks, “I’ll make it fit!” and commences to pound the living hell out of it to force its contours to match the space in question. And this is how I feel about the ending: Gudenkauf made it fit, but it doesn’t look right to me.

Nevertheless, mystery lovers are going to want this novel. The heart-pounding suspense is undeniable, and who knows? You may love the ending.

As for me, I think I need to find the rest of her work and read it!

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