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missing pieces book coverReviewed by Marcus Hammond

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is an aptly titled murder mystery that employs heart wrenching drama and tension to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Gudenkauf has a unique way of developing both the major and minor characters in such a way that the reader always feels connected to the main plot thread, yet never loses interest in the individual character’s role in the overall development. She uses each character to advance the complicated web of lies that surround Jack’s family.

The story is in one instance a murder mystery. As a young boy, Jack Quinlan suffered the mysterious loss of his mother. After years of avoiding the small town he grew up in and learning to deal with the consequences of his childhood trauma, Jack and his wife, Sarah, are forced to confront his past. As the secrets of Jack’s childhood are unraveled through Sarah’s interactions with his family and friends, Sarah’s faith in her husband gets tested.

The title of the book really leads the reader into the atmosphere of the book. As Sarah becomes more and more entrenched in the murky past of her husband’s childhood, it becomes clear that there are pieces of the story that have been swept away to be lost forever. Sarah, however, continually tries to find the pieces of the puzzle and there are those in Jack’s life that would prefer that the pieces be left uncovered.  Sarah, however, also finds that her rural surroundings lead her into helpful relationships. She may be trying to uncover a web of lies, but nobody feels threatened by her. This establishes a unique touch to the mystery and drama of the situation and ultimately creates forceful impact once the mystery is solved.

Gudenkauf has delved into the darkness and psychology of family before in The Weight of Silence and Little Mercies, but Missing Pieces sets her apart from other writers like Jodi Picoult and Kristen Hannah. The masterful construction of each twist and turn within the mystery, while being meticulous in the creation of each character helps the reader feel the tension and drama surrounding Jack and Sarah.

Some may discount Gudenkauf as a genre writer that is too similar to other, more popular authors. This novel’s twisting drama proves that she’s creatively original and well worth the reading time.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.