READER: I LOVED IT.
It is basically a thriller, though a slow-paced one, and very ... literary, I guess would be a good word for it, in that it's as much about the minutiae of the characters' lives as it is about the action plot. The closest thing I can compare it to is Stephen King; the characters are all likable and memorable and well fleshed out, even the terrible ones. Killers and prospective victims' lives all interweave in a complicated dance as they run into each other under different circumstances, winding every closer to disaster.
It's interesting because this is a type of book I normally don't tend to enjoy (serial killers menacing women, in this case with extra bonus pedophilia; giving equal time to the antagonists' often vile POV) but everyone is so vivid and engaging that I was caught up in it to the end. Since the author is new, there's only one more book in the series, which I will be grabbing ASAP; I can't wait to spend more time with these characters.
Hester Thursby is a Harvard librarian with a sideline in finding missing people. She lives with her boyfriend, his toddler niece (the daughter of his sister who disappeared) and a basset hound in a big old drafty house in which she and her boyfriend have separate apartments connected by a dog door. Due to the child situation, she does most of her detecting with a three-year-old and a very slow dog in tow.
She is approached by a woman about finding her (the client's) missing brother. Twelve years ago, the brother and his best friend vanished; now a series of postcards are turning up that may or may not be from her brother, containing cryptic quotes. As Hester digs into their past, a dark, complicated picture begins to emerge, of a lakeside resort town and a family with secrets buried deep, in some cases literally. Meanwhile, the brother and his friend are actually just down the road, ingratiating themselves into Boston high society. Having an amateur detective snooping into their past is the last thing they want ...
I was just having a discussion recently with rachelmanija about how fictional characters tend to behave more rationally than real people do; characters in fiction make sense, while real people do irrational things all the time. And one thing I found fascinating about this book is that the characters do exactly those kinds of irrational things, but in a highly relatable way. I kept wanting to yell "DON'T DO THE THING!!" at them, but it's not a "you're too stupid to live" kind of situation; rather, they're the kind of dumb, sloppy, emotional mistakes that people do make, particularly the criminals, who are not mastermind chessmasters but rather, desperate people making a cascading chain of bad decisions as mistake piles on mistake. I suppose a slow, meandering plot full of characters doing irrational things sounds incredibly frustrating on the surface, but it never read that way because everything the characters do is completely plausible for them, it's just that they aren't the kind of hypercompetent protagonists that we often read about. They feel more like a collection of real, flawed people thrust into a suspense plot that they're not fully prepared for. There's also a lot of love, loyalty, and unexpected friendship, things I am a complete sucker for.
So basically, this book was a very pleasant surprise; I really enjoyed it and can't wait to continue on to the next one.
(One thing I did find unintentionally hilarious about this book, being a short person myself, is how frequently Hester's shortness/tininess is remarked on, by Hester herself as well as by everyone she comes into contact with. She's 4'9", which is, okay, really short. But it's only 4 inches shorter than I am, and I don't go around generally thinking about how short I am most of the time. She's not microscopic. I suspect that the author is not short.)
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