Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th August 2020 from Michael Joseph
It’s been a decade since the town’s sweetheart Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind.
Since her disappearance, Tru’s brother, Wyatt, has lived as an outcast, desperate to know what happened to his sister.
So when Wyatt finds a lost girl, he believes she is a sign.
But for new cop, Odette Tucker, this girl’s appearance reopens old wounds.
Determined to solve both cases, Odette fights to save a lost girl in the present and in doing so digs up a shocking truth about that fateful night in the past . . .
I love Julia Heaberlin’s ability to tell a cracking story. She writes beautifully, giving weight to her characters and crafting them so that they feel authentic and when they hurt, the reader hurts right along with them. She has the ability to at once create tough but vulnerable women, to give them personality, depth and flaws so that they stand out in the mind. All of this in a setting that is rich, vivid and deeply atmospheric.
Rural Texas is the location and this story will be told from three perspectives. Odette Tucker is a cop in a small Texas town. Her father Marshall Tucker was a cop too. Odette is a little unusual in that she is an amputee and has a range of legs that she can put on as she goes about her daily business, including one that allows her to understand what Oscar Pistorius had to go through to get out of bed on any given day.
She has history with the town recluse, Wyatt whose sister, Trumanelle and father disappeared ten years ago and were never seen again. Most people think Wyatt was responsible and give him a wide berth, but nothing has ever been proved.
Odette and Wyatt were close once and there’s still something of a spark between them, and Odette mostly doesn’t believe Wyatt is guilty of anything. Odette’s partner Rusty is less sure of that, but then he’s the kind of cop that Odette’s daddy would have liked. The kind that’s prepared to deliver justice first and ask questions later.
The book opens with Wyatt finding a young girl lying on a patch of deserted ground by the road, injured and not speaking. He takes her home to look after her, but he’s hardly on the road before a concerned citizen calls it in to the police and so Odette is once more at Wyatt’s door wanting to know what’s going on.
Haeaberlin takes Angel’s (the girl’s) story and the disappearance of Wyatt’s father and sister as Odette and Wyatt together seek to find out just what Angel’s story is and as they do we see how it impacts on Wyatt’s history.
Heaberlin creates a deep Southern mystery here, slowly peeling back layers of secrecy, contempt for the law and shocking betrayals to reveal a picture of lies and secrets. Heritage and history play their part in hiding all the secrets and lies that are buried in a shallow grave covered by a thin veneer of dust.
The novel takes place over a course of years but it never feels long or slow, just rich and redolent like a slow cooked casserole where every morsel is rich and tender. Though disappearances and a murder are the mainstay of the story, it is the characters and relationships that make this a symphony rather than a good tune and we can hear the timbre of the music change as the time passes.
There are some genuinely surprising moments and times when you wonder what’s going on but this just adds to the dark, unsettling feeling that being immersed in this book is already giving you.
Verdict: Beautifully written, emotionally charged, full of richness and depth, this is a fabulous, evocative read and one I highly recommend.
Julia Heaberlin is the author of the international bestseller Black-Eyed Susans and Paper Ghosts. Heaberlin’s psychological thrillers, all set in Texas, have sold to more than eighteen countries. She worked as a features editor at The Detroit News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and The Dallas Morning News and has always been especially interested in true crime and how events play out years later. The Star-Telegram Life & Arts section was named one of the Top 10 sections in the country during her tenure as its editor. Heaberlin, who grew up in Texas, lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where she is at work on her next novel.
You can follow Julia on Twitter @Juliathrillers