Publication Date: 2/2/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2016 A woman uncovers earth-shattering secrets about her husband's family in this chilling page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf. Sarah Quinlan's husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded. Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia's accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack's past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.
A special thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. A long-time fan of Heather Gudenkauf’s books, she returns following Little Mercies (5 Stars) with her best book yet, MISSING PIECES, a multi-layered, gritty, dark, mysterious, and suspenseful edge-of-your seat (action-packed) domestic crime psycho-thriller. I could not put down. Top Mysteries of 2016! A woman discovers dark chilling secrets about her husband’s family past. There is suspicion, mistrust, and nothing is as it appears. Two accidents or falls turn, into intriguing murders and a devilishly evil game of "three blind mice". A whodunit mystery, which will leave your head spinning, while trying to guess the identity of the murderer-- with twists and turns you do not see coming. Once you think you have it figured out, you suspect someone else. There are Missing Pieces of a strange puzzle hovering just beyond your reach. As the book opens we meet Lydia Tierney 1985, Iowa farm--she has sent her two children, Jack (fifteen) and Amy (eleven) off to school. She appears to be a happy homemaker planning a special dinner to celebrate their last day at school, prior to summer vacation. She is downstairs, to collect some things for dinner, from the cellar. She and her husband John had lived on the farm for fifteen years. She hears something and turns around, before being stuck down by someone she appears to know. Flash forward to present day. Jack is now married with a family in Larkspur, Montana. A happy family, Jack is a physical therapist, and wife Sarah is an anonymous (Dear Astrid) advice columnist for theMidwest Messenger, a prominent newspaper in Montana. A step down from her prior position. She had been a hard-news reporter traveling all over the world, covering major international news stories. After the girls were born she stayed close to home and the job had worked out well for the last seven years. Only a handful of people knew Astrid’s true identity. Her daughters did not know. The twin daughters in college, at the University of Montana were too busy with their own life. Some of her letters were from weekly people looking for unbiased opinions and a fresh perspective. But some were odd, disturbing, dark, violent, and needy. If so, she had been known to contact the police. Jack receives a phone call from Amy, his sister regarding his aunt Julia. She was the one who found her. Julia had taken a bad fall, and he needed to come home. Jack has not returned to his home place in twenty years. Penny Gate, Iowa does not hold fond memories for Jack. A three-hour flight from Montana, and the couple are on their way to a town of dark secrets. Hold on for a roller coaster ride. A past he has not shared with his wife. Plus, Sarah soon learns his last name was Tierney, not Quinlan? Why was he taking his aunt and uncle’s last name? Jack told Sarah his parents died in an automobile accident with the dad driving. This is what she has believed to be true for twenty years. Until now. Aunt Julia and Uncle Hal raised Amy and Jack, after they became orphans. Sarah soon learns, Lydia was murdered and Jack’s father John has not been seen since. An investigation eliminated a variety of suspects, (Jack being one of them), and it was assumed John was the killer; however, there was no such evidence and he has not been found. In this small town of Penny Gate there are many secrets. From parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, to siblings. Amy is troubled, and resents Jack for leaving. She calls their old home place a house of horror. Sarah begins to uncover all sorts of lies. Not only did her husband lie about his parents, he also was dating Celia, in high school. She now is married to Dean, Hal’s son, and Jack’s cousin. Sarah had never met Celia, previously. The last time he came was for their wedding and she had stayed home with the twins. Jack is in non-communication mode. He says he wants to forget it. Sarah is livid! There is a mystery surrounding Julia’s fall—and soon after their arrival, she dies. A full investigation is in force. All fingers point to Amy since she seems unstable with pill popping and alcohol, walking around like a zombie and losing her job. However, she loved Julia and Dean appears to dislike her. Soon thereafter Sarah with her former investigative reporting skills, wants to know more about Jack’s mom and dad’s death; however, he is not forthcoming with any answers. She begins to think the two murders may be connected.
Why is Jack being so secretive? How will her marriage survive this? Why would Jack lead her blindly into a town filled with secrets, horror, evil and violence? She begins doubting her entire life with Jack and their family. Why? What is Jack hiding? Dean and Celia live in the house that Amy and Jack grew up in. In the meantime, blame is cast upon Amy, who says she is innocent. However, Sarah becomes to suspect Jack. She is trying to get Amy a lawyer, and then she then sees Dean and Celia fighting-- he has a temper. After the reports come back, appears Julia was poisoned and beaten. Who would do this to a lovely woman? What about Lydia and the murder from twenty years ago, never solved. A bloodbath in the cellar. What is Gilmore, the cop’s connection? Could John Tierney still be alive, and could someone have murdered him too? Sarah befriends Margaret Dooley, a woman dispatcher at the police department, who likes gossip. Partners in crime, she feeds her information and between the two, they are a riot----sneaking evidence, from a twenty-year-old case, copying files to flash drives, slipping into library and coffee shops, bars; gathering bits and pieces from the old and current murder. Both houses are now a crime scene. To make matters more intense, Sarah is receiving these cryptic emails about three blind mice. She ignores them, because she has too much other to worry about here in Iowa. Work can wait and she deletes them. She has not had time to answer her editor's calls. She has not a clue they could be connected to what is going on here in Iowa. However, when someone runs her off the road, and leaves a broken watch on her car windshield, and photos of a crime scene, and other texts and emails – someone here in Penny Gate could be the one behind the three blind mice? There are so many suspects: The cop, the uncle, the father, Jack, Amy, Dean—each time someone goes down the steps to a cellar or basement, I am holding my breath! Who would murder two farmer’s wives and why? Similarities between Lydia and Julia’s deaths. What is the motive? Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is the truth—trust or not? Each secret uncovered adds another crack in Sarah’s marriage. Wouldn’t someone capable of murdering show some signs of insanity, being unbalanced? Is she married to a psychopath or someone in this family? Does she even want to stay here? She has to learn the truth before she leaves. “You can’t catch me.” A text. Her cell phone. When Sarah gets her hands on the old evidence, she is afraid of her own husband. Who is this man? Nothing could prepare for darkness and evil of this town. A race against time Sarah is in the middle of danger, the closer she comes to learning the identity of the killer. Clues surface and the missing pieces of the puzzle come to light for an explosive climax. Wow, this was one intense mystery! Loved Sarah’s character and Margaret (she was a former babysitter for Jack and Amy). The two female feisty sleuths were creative, innovative, and pushed all boundaries—smart, edgy, taking risks, witty, sneaking around making excuses about the food, and uncovering the web of deceit. (they need to be PI partners). A case no one could crack years earlier. These two made the story. A number of evil players with two sides, making it difficult to determine the killer. Cryptic message, clues, beatings, murder weapons, dark cellars, poisoning.
Loved the front cover; perfect title. There are so many missing pieces, clues, and mystery surrounding the two murders----an ideal book for book clubs and discussions. Different personalities and perspectives. Nice character development and plot planning-- the author hands out small clues and pieces, as the story unravels. Very clever twist with the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme, clues, poisoning, and the eyes being covered, see how they run, etc.…There is so much unknown--and each character has flaws, making more than a few likely suspects with possible motive. By the time you reach the end, you will find another huge piece. Even though I have enjoyed all Heather’s books, MISSING PIECES is my favorite. Action-packed and a different twist than her previous books. I hope she continues to write more of these fast-paced crime psycho-suspense mystery thrillers; she is in her “element,” and since this is my favorite genre--a glowing 5 stars! Can’t wait to see what’s next! (More of this, please)
"Intelligent, thought-provoking.... If there's such a thing as a 'thoughtful thriller,' this is it." -Sandra Brown, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"An action packed thriller... Gudenkauf's best book yet!" –Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby
"An emotional roller coaster of suspense that will keep you guessing until the final page is turned." -Jennifer McMahon, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People
"This fast-paced read will appeal to fans of psychological suspense like that by Joy Fielding." -Booklist
About the Author
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.
Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.
Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.
Heather lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her next novel. Connect with Heather: Website Twitter