The Weight of Blood

( 45 )

Overview

For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.
 
The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her ...
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Overview

For fans of Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith, and Daniel Woodrell comes a gripping, suspenseful novel about two mysterious disappearances a generation apart.
 
The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
 
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
 
The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.
 
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
“[An] expertly crafted thriller.”Entertainment Weekly, “The Must List”
 
“Haunting . . . [a] riveting debut.”Los Angeles Times
 
“Laura McHugh’s atmospheric debut . . . conjures a menacingly beautiful Ozark setting and a nest of poisonous family secrets reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.”—Vogue
 
“Fantastic . . . a mile-a-minute thriller.”The Dallas Morning News
 
“Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“The sinister tone builds relentlessly.”—The Plain Dealer
 
“Rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won’t want to miss.”—Karin Slaughter
 
“Daniel Woodrell better watch his back. . . . Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. . . . A suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways.”BookPage
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/11/2013
In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family (think doublewides, pickups, and possum stew) with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Dane, from Henbane, Mo., is grieving for her murdered friend, Cheri, and her mother, Lila, who vanished soon after Lucy was born. Determined to solve both mysteries, Lucy never realizes just how close the answers might lie. Her father, Carl, and her uncle, Crete, are not forthcoming about what they know, which only makes her more curious. McHugh alternates narrators, presenting each chapter from one character’s perspective, but the most compelling is Lila’s (given in flashbacks to her arrival in the area 18 years earlier, as a contract farm employee of Uncle Crete). Young Lila’s hopes for a fresh start after a childhood spent bouncing from one foster home to another are dashed when she painfully learns that Crete plans to put her to work as a prostitute. In the present, Lucy uncovers evidence that puts her in jeopardy, leading to sudden, surprising violence, followed by a tornado that helps wipe the slate clean. This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Union Literary. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“A fantastic novel, rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won’t want to miss.”—Karin Slaughter, author of Unseen
 
“Laura McHugh’s vivid and enthralling The Weight of Blood centers on a mother and daughter in a seemingly benign yet deeply horrifying small town. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers
 
The Weight of Blood pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. What starts as Lucy’s coming-of-age story becomes a chilling tale about the price of secrets. As the menace deepens, so does the tension. Laura McHugh has written a terrific novel.”—Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award–winning author of The Shadow Tracer
 
“McHugh’s debut is as lush and evocative as its Ozark setting, with luminous prose and characters you can’t help rooting for, even as the mystery surrounding them intensifies and the odds against them grow more and more harrowing. I couldn’t put it down.”—Carla Buckley, author of The Deepest Secret
 
“In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family . . . with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden. . . . This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Debut novelist McHugh comes out swinging with this gripping tale set in the Ozarks of Missouri. . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life in Henbane.”Library Journal (starred review)

“In this riveting debut, Laura McHugh weaves together the stories of two women, separated by a generation, who each reveal pieces of a story that gains momentum and power as its shape becomes clear. This novel will keep you up all night.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
 
“Once I picked up Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood, I couldn’t put it down. I kept turning pages long into the night, bewitched by the enchanting Ozark landscape and the haunting murder mystery at its heart. The Weight of Blood is the kind of novel that leaves the reader breathless and wanting more.”—Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
 
“An elegant time bomb of a novel, a coming-of age story that holds you captive from the first sentence and doesn’t let go of you after the last.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds

“[A] suspenseful novel, with a barn burner of a plot . . . McHugh shows herself to be a compelling writer intimately familiar with rural poverty and small-town weirdness.”Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-23
A teenager investigates a friend's murder and learns much more than she bargained for. McHugh's debut interweaves two parallel stories, set almost two decades apart. We begin with Lucy, who relates that the dismembered body of her school friend Cheri, a mentally disabled 18-year-old who had been missing a year, was found near a creek outside the remote town of Henbane, in the Missouri Ozarks. Approximately 18 years earlier, Lila, a young Iowa woman who has just aged out of foster care, is placed by an agency in a job with Crete Dane, who owns Dane's, a restaurant/general store, and a lot of other Henbane real estate. Lila's job is supposed to include room and board, but the room is a stifling one in Crete's garage, the food is intermittent, and Crete withholds most of her pay. Back in the present, Lucy, 17, has just taken a summer job with her uncle Crete. Mostly, her duties involve waitressing at Dane's, but when she and another teenager, Daniel, are assigned to clean out a remote trailer in the woods, the teens notice obvious signs of a struggle and something else: a necklace that Lucy had given Cheri. This discovery sends Lucy and Daniel on a quest to find Cheri's killer. Meanwhile, in the past, Lila, whose beauty both enthralls and disturbs Henbane's downtrodden townsfolk, learns the real nature of her job: Crete plans to force her into prostitution. Enraged that she prefers his brother Carl, Crete rapes Lila and inflicts a festering bite, then holds Lila captive in her garage room until Carl intervenes, eventually leading to an intersection of past and present. McHugh's evocation of the rugged setting and local speech patterns starkly reveals the menace lurking beneath Henbane's folksy facade. However, a misguided authorial attempt to find the good in Crete only muddies the novel's moral waters, since nothing can mitigate or redeem the evil he inflicts. An accomplished literary thriller.
From the Publisher
“[An] expertly crafted thriller.”Entertainment Weekly, “The Must List”

“With her riveting debut, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh makes a strong bid at cementing a new tradition of regional crime fiction while keeping tourism low in the Ozarks. . . . [A] powerful sense of place is the anchor of The Weight of Blood. The well-drawn townspeople and oppressive, dread-soaked atmosphere sprout from the soil of Henbane. . . . The prose is strong, with evocative paint strokes in all the right places. McHugh is an artful, efficient writer who tells her story in vicious blows. . . . McHugh has crafted a sharp, haunting tale of blood in the Ozarks, as substantial as it is pleasurable to read.”Los Angeles Times

“Laura McHugh’s atmospheric debut, The Weight of Blood . . . conjures a menacingly beautiful Ozark setting and a nest of poisonous family secrets reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.”Vogue

“Fantastic . . . a mile-a-minute thriller.”The Dallas Morning News

“Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“The sinister tone builds relentlessly.”—The Plain Dealer

“A fantastic novel, rich in character and atmosphere . . . This is one you won’t want to miss.”—Karin Slaughter, author of Unseen
 
“A suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways . . . Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back. . . . The Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut.”BookPage

“Laura McHugh’s vivid and enthralling The Weight of Blood centers on a mother and daughter in a seemingly benign yet deeply horrifying small town. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers
 
The Weight of Blood pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. What starts as Lucy’s coming-of-age story becomes a chilling tale about the price of secrets. As the menace deepens, so does the tension. Laura McHugh has written a terrific novel.”—Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award–winning author of The Shadow Tracer
 
“McHugh’s debut is as lush and evocative as its Ozark setting, with luminous prose and characters you can’t help rooting for, even as the mystery surrounding them intensifies and the odds against them grow more and more harrowing. I couldn’t put it down.”—Carla Buckley, author of The Deepest Secret
 
“In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family . . . with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden. . . . This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere.”—Publishers Weekly

“In this riveting debut, Laura McHugh weaves together the stories of two women, separated by a generation, who each reveal pieces of a story that gains momentum and power as its shape becomes clear. This novel will keep you up all night.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
 
“Once I picked up Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood, I couldn’t put it down. I kept turning pages long into the night, bewitched by the enchanting Ozark landscape and the haunting murder mystery at its heart. The Weight of Blood is the kind of novel that leaves the reader breathless and wanting more.”—Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
 
“An elegant time bomb of a novel, a coming-of age story that holds you captive from the first sentence and doesn’t let go of you after the last.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds

“[A] suspenseful novel, with a barn burner of a plot . . . McHugh shows herself to be a compelling writer intimately familiar with rural poverty and small-town weirdness.”Booklist

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
★ 11/01/2013
Debut novelist McHugh comes out swinging with this gripping tale set in the Ozarks of Missouri. Lucy Dane's family is intricately linked to the "hollers" and woods of her hometown of Henbane: her father and uncle grew up there, and her mother—a bewitching young beauty named Lila—disappeared from the area when Lucy was just a year old. When her friend Cheri goes missing and is later found murdered, Lucy begins to investigate the crime. But her search for the truth soon expands to include the mystery of her mother's disappearance—and it puts Lucy herself in jeopardy. By telling the story from multiple points of view, McHugh reveals some of the town's dark secrets even as Lucy works to uncover them. Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life in Henbane. VERDICT Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French. [See Prepub Alert, 9/13/13.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812995206
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 41,739
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura McHugh lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband and children. The Weight of Blood is her first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Lucy

That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body. One Saturday in March, fog crept through the river valley and froze overnight. The morning sun crackled over a ghostly landscape across the road from my uncle’s general store, the burr oaks that leaned out over the banks of the North Fork River crystallized with a thick crust of hoarfrost. The tree nearest the road was dead, half-hollow, and it leaned farther than the rest, balanced at a precarious angle above the water. A trio of vultures roosted in the branches, according to Buddy Snell, a photographer for the Ozark County Record. Buddy snapped pictures of the tree, the stark contrast of black birds on white branches, for lack of anything better to print on the front page of the paper. It was eerie, he said. Haunting, almost. He moved closer, kneeling at the water’s edge to get a more interesting angle, and that was when he spied the long brown braid drifting in the shallows, barely visible among the stones. Then he saw Cheri’s head, snagged on a piece of driftwood: her freckled face, abbreviated nose, eyes spaced too wide to be pretty. Stuffed into the hollow of the tree were the rest of Cheri’s pieces, her skin etched with burns and amateur tattoos. Her flesh was unmarked when she disappeared, and I wondered if those new scars could explain what had happened to her, if they formed a cryptic map of the time she’d spent missing.

Cheri was eighteen when she died, one year older than me. We’d lived down the road from each other since grade school, and she’d wander over to my house to play whenever she felt like it and stay until my dad made her leave. She especially liked my Barbies because she didn’t have any dolls of her own, and we’d spend all day building little houses for them out in the woodpile, making swimming pools with the hose. Her mom never once called or came looking for her, not even the time I hid her in my closet so she could stay overnight. My dad found out the next morning and started hollering at us, but then he looked at Cheri, tears dripping off her face as she wolfed down the frozen waffles I’d made her, and he shut up and fried us some bacon. He waited until she finished eating and crying before giving her a ride back home.

Kids at school--including my best friend, Bess--thought Cheri was weird and didn’t want to play with her. I knew Cheri was slow, but I didn’t realize there was actually something different about her until fourth or fifth grade, when she disappeared into the special ed class for most of the day. Newspaper articles after the murder described her as “deficient” or “developmentally disabled,” with the mental capacity of a ten-year-old. We weren’t as close in high school--I’d outgrown her in certain ways and spent most of my time with Bess--but we still shared a bus stop at the fork of Toad Holler Road, and she was always there first, sitting on a log under the persimmon trees, smoking cigarettes she’d steal from her mother and picking at her various scabs. She always offered me a cigarette if she had one to spare. I didn’t know how to inhale, and she probably didn’t, either, but we sat there every morning, elbow to elbow, talking and laughing in a cloud of smoke.

One morning I beat Cheri to the bus stop. I got worried when the bus rumbled up the dirt road and she still wasn’t there, because her mom always sent her to school, sick or not, if only to get her out of the way. Days passed with no sign of her, so I walked through the woods to her mom’s trailer and knocked and knocked, but nobody answered. There were rumors she’d dropped out of school, and when somebody from the county finally went to check it out, Doris Stoddard said her daughter had run away. She hadn’t reported her missing because she figured she would come back.

Flyers were posted in shopwindows around town, and I taped several up at my uncle’s store, Dane’s, which had been in our family for generations. Above Cheri’s picture, in thick black print, was the word runaway. I wasn’t convinced that she’d left on her own, but no one shared my concern. In time, the flyers faded and curled, and when they came down, no new ones went up in their place.

A year passed between Cheri’s disappearance and her murder, and during that time hardly anybody spoke of her. It felt like nobody missed her besides me. But as soon as her body turned up, it was all anybody could talk about. It was the biggest news to hit our tiny town of Henbane in years. Camera crews arrived in hordes, parking their vans by the river to get a shot of the tree, which had sprouted a modest memorial of stuffed animals and flowers. They barged into Dane’s demanding coffee and Red Bull and complaining about the roads and poor cellphone service. People who had ignored Cheri while she was alive were suddenly eager to share their connections to the now-famous dead girl. I used to sit behind her in health class. . . . She rode on my tractor one year in the Christmas parade. . . . I was there that time she threw up on the bus.

The whole town jittered with nervous speculation, wondering where she’d been for that missing year and why she’d turned up now. It was common knowledge that in the hills, with infinite hiding places, bodies disappeared. They were fed to hogs or buried in the woods or dropped into abandoned wells. They were not dismembered and set out on display. It just wasn’t how things were done. It was that lack of adherence to custom that seemed to frighten people the most. Why would someone risk getting caught to show us what he’d done to Cheri when it would’ve been so easy to keep her body hidden? The only reasonable explanation was that an outsider was responsible, and outsiders bred fear in a way no homegrown criminal could.

In the wake of Cheri’s murder, Meyer’s Hardware ran out of locks and ammunition. Few people went out after dark, and those who did were armed with shotguns. My dad took precautions, too. He worked construction jobs where he could get them, usually a couple hours away in Springfield or Branson, and he had been letting me stay home alone a couple days at a time while he was gone. After Cheri’s body was found, he went back to driving the round-trip every day, spending hours on the road so he could be home with me at night.

I replayed our mornings together, Cheri’s and mine, sifted through our last conversations. She’d talked mostly about her “boyfriends,” pervs who hung around her mom’s trailer and told her she was pretty and tried to feel her up. Boys our age, the ones at school, were cruel. They called her a retard and made her cry. I told her to ignore them, but I never told them to stop, and that’s what I remembered when Cheri’s body turned up in the tree: the ways I had failed her. Like how I’d been her best friend but she wasn’t mine. How I’d worried something bad might have happened when she went missing, but I didn’t do anything about it. All the way back to when we were little, me being less of a friend than she thought I was. I gave her my Happy Holidays Barbie, not because it was her favorite but because I had ruined its hair.

Spring was short-lived. The hills were ecstatic with blooms, an embarrassing wealth of trees and wildflowers: dogwoods in cream and pink, clouds of bright lavender redbuds, carpets of phlox and toothwort and buttercups. Then the leaves filled out the canopy, draping the woods in shadow. The vines and underbrush greened and resumed their constant creeping, and the heat blossomed into a living thing, its unwanted hands upon us at all times. Cheri had been buried at Baptist Grove in a child’s casket--which was cheaper and plenty big to hold what was left of her--but I couldn’t stop thinking about her, how she’d shared so much with me but hadn’t said a word about running away.

By the end of May, there were no real leads in Cheri’s case. Everybody in town still talked about the murder, arguing about whether the tree where she was found should be cut down or turned into some type of memorial, though most folks had gone back to their normal routines. Dad got tired of his daily commute and went back to leaving me alone for a day or two while he worked. As time passed, it seemed less and less likely that what happened to Cheri would happen to anyone else.

The shock and fear over Cheri’s death had faded to the point that kids joked about it at school. Most of my classmates thought Mr. Girardi, our former art teacher, had killed her, despite his alibi. He had returned to Chicago around the time Cheri disappeared, having lasted less than a semester in Henbane. Back then, kids gossiped that Cheri had run away with him, that he was hot for retarded girls. Why else, they asked, would he have encouraged her pathetic attempts in class or let her eat lunch in the art room?

Mr. Girardi had been doomed from the start for the simple fact that he wasn’t a native, but he made it worse every time he opened his mouth. He didn’t know that a haint was a ghost or that puny meant sick or that holler was the way we said hollow. Ah! he said when he figured it out. So a holler is like a valley! When a kid in class welcomed him to God’s country, Mr. Girardi wondered aloud why the churches in God’s country were outnumbered by monuments to the devil. It was true: the spiny ridge of Devil’s Backbone, the bottomless gorge of Devil’s Throat, the spring bubbling forth from the Devil’s Eye--his very anatomy worked into the grit of the landscape. Mr. Girardi spent an entire class period comparing Henbane to paintings of hell. The land was rocky and gummed with red clay, the thorny underbrush populated by all manner of biting, stinging beasts. The roads twisted in on themselves like intestines. The heat sucked the breath from your chest. Even the name, he’d said before being fired for showing us a Bosch, which was full of boobs, Henbane. Another name for nightshade--the devil’s weed. He’s everywhere. He’s all around you.

I’d felt sorry for Mr. Girardi because he didn’t understand why everyone treated him like a trespasser. Tourists came through on the river, but strangers rarely moved to town, and they naturally aroused suspicion. Even though I’d lived in Henbane all my life--had been born in the clapboard house my grandpa Dane built not a mile from the North Fork River--no one could forget that my mother was a foreigner, that she had come from someplace else, even if that place was only Iowa. Some folks didn’t think it possible that the cornfields and snowdrifts of the North had produced a creature as mysterious as my mother, so they had crafted origin myths involving Gypsies and wolves. As a kid, I didn’t know if such things could be true, so I’d studied photographs of her, seeking proof of their claims. Was her long black hair evidence of Gypsy blood? Did her ice-green eyes spring from a wolf? I had to admit there was a hint of something exotic in her olive skin, the fullness of her mouth, the wideness of her eyes. I’d read somewhere that beauty could be measured by scientific means, calculated in symmetry and distance, scale of features and angles of bone. Certainly my mother was beautiful, but beauty alone couldn’t account for the effect she’d had on our small town. There was something deep-rooted, intangible, that the pictures couldn’t quite grasp.

Part of it was that they didn’t know her, Dad said. She came to work for my uncle, and folks didn’t get why he’d hired an outsider. She had no family and wouldn’t talk about her past. A woman without kin, in the town’s eyes, had been cast out, and surely not without reason. Rumor spread that she was a witch. People still told the story of my mother turning Joe Bill Sump into a snake. They said she emitted a scent that would seduce you if you got too close. That her eyes had the same rectangular pupils as a goat’s. Some even said that her grave was dug up, revealing nothing inside but a bird. None of these things was true. She had no grave because we had no body. Most of Dad’s kin, the aunts and uncles and cousins on his mother’s side, broke away, treated us like strangers--like we were tainted because of her. But I didn’t mind the talk of witchcraft, however ridiculous it was. All the better if people were wary and left me alone. It was preferable to hearing them whisper about the one undisputed truth: that when I was a baby, my mother had walked into the inky limestone labyrinth of Old Scratch Cavern with my father’s derringer pistol and never returned. Before Cheri’s death, my mother’s disappearance had been the biggest mystery in town.

On the last day of school, I walked home from the bus stop alone. Over a year had passed since Cheri made the walk with me, and I remembered how she used to linger in my driveway before continuing down the road to her trailer. As my house came into view, I noticed that without Dad’s truck parked out front, the place looked almost abandoned. The yard was a mix of rock and scrub, with Queen Anne’s lace bordering the fence. The house once was white, but the paint had worn down to a dull, splintery gray. It was a simple two-story rectangle with porches on the front and back, one of the nicer homes around when Grandpa built it, before it started to succumb to dry rot and age. It sat in a grove of walnut trees, and Grandpa Dane crowded the foundation with viburnum bushes. Grandma Dane once fell from a second-floor window while cleaning the glass, and Grandpa claimed the viburnum broke her fall and saved her life. Inside, the wood floors had long since lost their varnish, but the walls in each room were the bright cheery colors of Easter eggs, pink and aqua and orange, painted by my mother in a fit of nesting before my birth.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 45 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 12, 2014

    From the beginning of the book, you are invested in 17 year-old

    From the beginning of the book, you are invested in 17 year-old Lucy Dane’s story. She is tormented by the brutal murder of her childhood best friend, whose body is found on page one. As she digs deeper into her friend’s death, she discovers haunting similarities to her own mother’s unsolved disappearance 16 years earlier. The more she investigates, the more secrets come to light - until she is left with the undeniable conclusion that the truth of what happened to the two lost girls lies very close to home. 




    Setting and atmosphere play a big part in this book. The descriptions of life in the small town of Henbane, MO are dead-on and filled with authentic details that create such a vivid sense of setting. The author perfectly captures the deep mistrust and superstitious nature of the town’s residents – all of whom are fully realized characters – and contribute to or impede (depending on the person) Lucy’s quest to find out what happened to her friend and her mother.




    The best thing about this book is the consistently high level of tension throughout the whole thing! You always have a feeling that “all is not as it seems.” And not only are you waiting to find out who the “bad guy” is – but once you know – you’re waiting to find out just how bad he’s gonna get. 




    I don’t want to give too much away, but this book is a true page-turner. Beautifully written, highly suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Weight of Blood is not to be missed. 

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful book by debut author! I received an advance reader ed

    Wonderful book by debut author!

    I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

    Solid 4 Star Book!

    When I saw the description of this book, I was more than intrigued. Since I live in Missouri, a book focused on two mysteries a generation apart set in the Ozarks sounded pretty entertaining. While I do not live in the Ozarks, I do live close enough that the location sparked a bit of interest as well as the plot. As it turns out the tiny town of Henbane that the book is set in is somewhere that I have never been and most likely will never go but interesting anyway.

    As I actually started reading the book, I was pulled in right away. The two mysteries are told from different points of view and are connected not only by the small town of Henbane, but the characters, and events surrounding each mystery. Lucy has grown up without her mother, Lila, who went missing when she was very young. Lucy's friend Cheri also goes missing for about a year before her body is found. Lucy starts trying to find out what happened to her friend and she is the primary voice for events happening in the present. We also spend time with Lila, Lucy's mother, a generation earlier where we learn about the events that lead to her disappearance and possibly Cheri's murder.

    The author does use other points of view in the book but Lucy and Lila are the primary story tellers. Many of the characters are integral parts of both plots. Everything ties together by the end of the book with everything being interconnected.

    This was one of those books that starts strong, pulls you in and really does not let go. I found myself having a very difficult time putting this book down and could not wait to get back to it as soon as I could. The subject matter was difficult and I think the author realistically represented many people's inclination small town or otherwise to look the other way and not get involved.

    I would definitely recommend this book! It is really hard to believe that this book was written by a debut author since it was so well written. I predict many wonderful works will be written by Laura McHugh in the future and I plan to try to read as many of them as I can.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    Read in two days - could not put it down

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Laura McHugh is garnering lots of attention with her debut novel

    Laura McHugh is garnering lots of attention with her debut novel, The Weight of Blood. (And it's all good!)

    Seventeen year old Lucy Dane was born in the Ozark mountain town of Henbane, but has never been fully accepted by the community. Although her father is a native son, her mother Lila was an outsider, with rumours and suspicions constantly being whispered about her. Lucy doesn't remember her - she disappeared when she was a toddler.

    Other people have disappeared from Henbane as well - including a friend of Lucy. Lucy wants answers - about her mother and her friend. And so she begins nosing about.....perhaps not the wisest choice in a town full of secrets - and secret keepers.

    As a reader, we know much more. In part one, McHugh cuts the narrative between Lucy's present day search for answers and Lila's arrival and life in Henbane. Although a generation apart, Lila and Lucy's stories seem to mirror each other. Other voices are introduced in the next two parts, bring a different perspective and shedding further light on both the past and present.

    McHugh does a great job in setting the tone of the novel. Details and descriptions of everyday life, the locale, the customs and the mood of the town and its inhabitants are richly drawn. I had vivid pictures of Lucy and Lila sitting on the same front porch.

    Of the two main characters, I found myself most drawn to Lila, perhaps because I wanted things to be better for her. Lucy makes some rash choices that had me thinking 'oh no!' more than once. But, I did want her to find answers. Both for herself and me. I had a fairly clear idea of where things were going to end, but the journey there was a very good read. Tension filled and a page turner.

    A few of the supporting cast of characters were a wee bit cliched. But, the reader has no trouble discerning who is 'good' and who is 'bad'. Or do they? For the lines are blurred in The Weight of Blood. Where does loyalty lie?

    "You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin."

    I thought McHugh's choice of the name Henbane for the town was somewhat revealing.. Henbane is 'a coarse and poisonous plant of the nightshade family, with sticky hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell.' The case of Lucy's missing friend is based on a horrifying true event.

    I reviewed a book last month that fell into a newly (to me) coined genre - grit lit. The Weight of Blood has a distinctly Southern Gothic feel to it, but I would also tag it as grit lit. Dark, dangerous and grittily atmospheric. The Weight of Blood is an excellent debut and has marked McHugh as an author I'll be watching. Her second novel Arrowood is in the works.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Deep in the Ozark Mountains is the town of Henbane and if you ar

    Deep in the Ozark Mountains is the town of Henbane and if you are stranger to these parts, don’t plan on staying. People in this area, don’t tend to appreciate or welcome strangers. Lila has been part of the foster system since her parents died and she just needed a job for a couple years to make some money. A month later, Lila found herself sitting on a Greyhound bus holding a signed 2 year contract for a live-in position in Henbane. Her new home would be a garage supplied with the bare necessaries, and I mean bare. Thinking her new life would consist of cleaning and cooking, Lila did not expect to meet up with the likings of Crete. Crete seemed like the perfect gentlemen but the noise around town is different and no one messed with Crete. Lucy lives with her father who travels a lot for work. Birdie checks in on Lucy just in case she needs anything. Lucy’s mother disappeared when she was a child leaving individuals speculating exactly what happened to her. When the pieces of Cheri Stoddard’s body appears, stuffed inside a tree, Lucy becomes fixated on solving the mystery of Cheri’s disappearance and murder. Lucy never considered herself a childhood friend of Cheri’s but in Cheri’s eyes, Lucy was her only friend. As Lucy tries to uncover the mystery, she begins to wonder if the two disappearances aren’t related. Trying to conceal her investigation, without upsetting the balance in this small chattering town, is quite difficult work for Lucy. As the plot thickens and you get to know more about the community of Henbane, you get drawn in and you see the layers of the town building.
    Told in alternating chapters at first, you get the story from Lucy’s and Lila’s viewpoint and then later in the book other chapters are titled with other characters from the story. The thickening of the story and the layers of the story made the story fascinating to me, pulling me forward making me want to put the pieces together. As Lucy does her investigative work, you can feel the tension in the air and the anxiety building for all the parties involved and I wanted to read faster yet I didn’t want to skip any important details. Poor Lila too. She had such high dreams and yet her circumstances when she arrived just keep getting cloudier and cloudier. Then when she met Carl, a light was lit. I found myself yelling at the book and covering my mouth with my hand, daring myself to read on. I wanted to know more yet I knew the other characters motives and personalities and what lied ahead, might not be the best results. The bond in the community and within the family was portrayed and written so well. There was something about the dialogue in this book that also impressed me. I don’t usually comment on this but I thought it was done extremely well. Great flow and exemplified more of the characters individualism. Great debut by Laura and can’t wait to see more of her writings.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2014

    Laura McHugh's The Weight of Blood was amazing and heart-wrenchi

    Laura McHugh's The Weight of Blood was amazing and heart-wrenching - so much so that it is hard to believe that this is her debut novel. Told in alternating chapters by 17-year-old Lucy and her mother Lila, who vanished when Lucy was a baby, The Weight of Blood is both a mystery and an exploration of the bonds of family, particularly in a tight-knit Ozark community. What do you do when you both fear and love a close relative? How can you remain loyal to both friend and family, when protecting one means hurting the other? McHugh addresses such weighty questions in lyrical prose which kept me engaged even after it was apparent what had happened to Lila and Lucy's friend Cheri. I highly recommend The Weight of Blood to those who enjoy reading about family secrets.

    I received a free copy of The Weight of Blood from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    Great first book!

    I read this because a high school friend posted it on her Facebook page. Her sister-in-law is the author. I wasn't disappointed. The story captured my attention from the very start, and kept me enthralled. Excellent book, and I hope there is more to come.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The synopsis of this book attracted me to it. I felt as though t

    The synopsis of this book attracted me to it. I felt as though the story would be interesting, I also felt as though it would be deeper than the other mysteries that seem to be flooding the market today.

    The book is told from many different perspectives, but in reality it is Lucy's story. She is attempting to solve the murder of her friend, by doing so she delves into the towns past uncovering secrets as she digs.

    As I read this book I was able to, as I put it, plow through it. Sometimes I am able to read mysteries as a fast pace. I think that is partly due to the fact that books tend to be predictable. With this book you can't move fast. You read each word and digest it, absorbing the scenery, the conversations, and the clues. The descriptions are so real you feel as though tou are there with the characters. As soon as you pick up the book it's like you're Alice falling through the hole into the characters' world. I was attempting to find a word to describe it when I read Slaughter's blurb. The word she uses is "rich" and I think that is the absolutely best word for it.

    I do have two complaints that I must voice. I know how could I, right? I felt like the author had some good secrets going throughout the book, but she would then blurt out the answer to those secrets. I like to stew on things. I want to wonder if I am on the right track to solving the mystery. I would start to wonder how these things would play out when all of a sudden within a few paragraphs the author gave me the answer. She would give secrets/clues, then solve them, then explain them. This bothered me, bot enough to stop reading and enjoying though. I still need to gather all the clues to lead me to the finale.

    The next complaint I have is the ending. Why is it so difficult to find an ending that wows? I want that moment where you are just stunned, that you never saw it coming... I have yet to find that. I won't give anything away, but I felt cheated in a way. Don't get me wrong it wasn't bad, but it wasn't stunning or spectacular like I felt it was going to be. While reading I had developed these ideas about how the book was going to end, building me excitement, causing me to flip pages as fast as I could read them, only to reach the end and sigh in slight disappointment. Not the thrilling, unexpected ending I was hoping for. Maybe because the rest of the book was so great I expected the ending to be shocking.

    This book isn't just about solving a mystery. It's about friendships, learning about your past. Discovering who your loved ones truly are. All these issues play a prominent role throughout the book. Also secrets are examined. How they can destroy people, how the guilt they cause can eat at a person's conscience for their entire lives.

    I would definitely say this is a must read. Even though the ending disappointed me I don't regret the story I was able to read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

    A small community in the Ozark Mountains unwelcoming of newcomer

    A small community in the Ozark Mountains unwelcoming of newcomers seemed like an intriguing setting for a mystery - and I was right. Laura McHugh is a great storyteller and held my interest throughout the book.

    Growing up in a small town myself, I thought Lucy and her friends were very believable teenagers, some with limited choices of a future, and others intent on leaving their small town to experience the outside world. Lucy's quest to discover more about her mother and get to know her better in some small way was both touching and heartbreaking. I liked learning more about her mother through the different perspectives of those who had known her.

    The supporting characters were well-developed - Carl, a still grieving single father wanting the best for his daughter and Bessie and Daniel, loyal friends and confidants, but my favorite was probably Birdie. Seeing her evolve from an aloof woman suspicious of outsiders to her eventual acceptance of Lucy's mother and then on to substitute grandmother was very heartwarming.

    Despite being a compelling read, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the ending. The mystery and suspense gradually built throughout the story and I was expecting - more, I guess. I felt like some things were still left unresolved and missed seeing the reactions of some characters to discoveries made near the end.

    The Weight of Blood is an impressive debut novel and absolutely worth reading for fans of Southern literature or those who enjoy mystery and suspense.

    This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An Ounce of Trouble

    A young teenage girl, Lucy Dane, living in the heart of the Ozarks, tries to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of her mother years ago. Many in the small community of Henbane believe her mother, Lila, an outsider, had powers which she used to cast a spell over the menfolk of the town. Lila's disappearance was welcomed by some and regretted by only a few. Lucy's inquiries into her mother's past is not welcomed by anyone in town. Especially when it starts to tie into the more recent disappearance and death of another young girl from Henbane. Lucy's investigation of the town's dark secrets will strain the bonds of friends and family testing the weight of blood. The story has a free flowing style that is at times captivating. I felt a different ending might have been found that would have empowered the major character to a greater extent. This book provided for review by Random House.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    I received a free goodreads giveaway suspenseful, mystery filled

    I received a free goodreads giveaway suspenseful, mystery filled book The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh.




    Lucy, a teeneager living in the Ozarks, learns that a friend of hers from her childhood, Cheri, has been brutally murdered. Lucy's mother had mysteriously disappeared when Lucy was a child and it was believed that her mother had committed suicide. Lucy wants to find out what happened to Cheri.
    While cleaning one of her Uncle Crete's trailers with her friend Daniel, she finds hidden away on a shelf the necklace that she had given Cheri. As Lucy hunts for the murderer, she finds out more about the events leading to her mother's disappearance. 




    The book is told in chapters by each of the characters and the reader experiences the feelings and struggles of each of the characters including Lucy's mother. Read the recommended thrilling book The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh to find out who the murderer is and what really happened to Lucy's mother

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014

    Could not put it down

    Been looking for a read like this since Gone Girl! Great story...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    Couldn't put it down!

    Entrapped me from beginning to end!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014

    Engaging and horrific pageturner

    Not for the weakhearted. Excellent read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

    Each chapter of the book is an individual character's point of v

    Each chapter of the book is an individual character's point of view of the events that happened in the past and the events happening
    in the present and how all these events are related to each other. Lucy's summer is spent working in her Uncle's store, hanging out
    with Daniel and Bess, and trying to uncover what really happened to Cheri, a friend that was murdered, and how does it all relate to
    her mom's own disappearance when Lucy was 1. 
    This story will rip your heart out and have you cursing humanity and the wickedness that exist in it but it also shows you that there is still
    good in people it is not all bad. I wasn't truly shocked by the ending but it was hard to read because all the pieces were together the
    puzzle was complete and the heaviness of raw emotion is unreal. There is violence towards children in this book which I hope explains
    my emotions while reading it and even still after your done it sits on you, the awfulness of such acts, but it is a rare thing when a book
    can make the reader feel that emotional.
    There was a tie for favorite character between Birdie and Ray. Birdie is a protector of Lucy's and the fact that she can wield a shotgun
    and use it makes this girl smile. Ray just seems like a sweet heart! I am glad that Lucy found what she was looking for even though it
    changed her forever.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2014

    A decent read.....

    A decent book to read. I thought the characters were well defined. Story was a bit "iffy", but still a good read for the beach this summer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2014

    Hated it came to an end...

    This story was equally as fufilling as it was detailed. I was in search of a read that was a page turner and authentic, but much to my surprise, it came packed with a twist as well; in both the style of writing and the ahaa moment. The fitting title does the story no justice; this may not hit close to home for most, but it is most intriguing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This was a phenomenal book ... a stay up late, edge of your seat

    This was a phenomenal book ... a stay up late, edge of your seat page-turner. Don't miss this one.  I know it's a good book when I'm at work thinking about the characters and can't wait to get home to read more about them. This was that kind of book. You can read all about the synopsis from the website. I won't tell you about that.  Trust me ... It's a great read. You won't be disappointed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2014

    A

    Great mystery set in the Ozarks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    Read it!

    I loved this book. I read it straight through and was really interested in the characters. Worth it in time and a great buy.

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