Northampton Series #1
By: Karen Katchur
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Publication Date: 11/01/2018
My Rating: 5 Stars + Author Q&A Interview
Top Books of 2018 In this dark, gripping mystery, a brutal murder unearths old secrets that should have stayed buried. A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.
The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface—memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.
In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life—or end it.
An emotionally resonant tale of fury, tragedy, guilt, and redemption.
The first in this exciting new series: Northampton County —A page-turning, psychologically rich, both "character and plot-driven," a gritty multi-generational, complex suspense thriller of two brutal crimes twenty-years-apart.
The past and present connect when a murder investigation with the same MO reconnects old childhood acquaintances and estranged parents, while dark family secrets threaten to destroy present lives.
Talented suspense novelist, Karen Katchur returns following The Sisters of Blue Mountain and The Secrets of Lake Road with her latest novel RIVER BODIES. — Taut prose, flawed characters, and a dark side that weaves through the lives of the small towns of Northampton County, with the introduction of this new bold series. The author creates a strong sense of place positioning itself ideally for the setting of this intriguing new series leaving readers anxiously awaiting the next addition.
An edgy, intense, deep and darkly compelling psychological suspense “whydunit” thriller with plenty of attention to detail. Katchur skillfully explores the frightening and gut-wrenching mental state of each character. The journey from past to present, the traumas and fears bringing them to the present nightmare as they confront their monsters.
Setting: Set in the small rural town of Portland, Pennsylvania in the autumn season, alongside the Delaware River banks with small connecting towns in Northampton County: Pennsylvania and the Jersey side.
Characters: Becca Kingsley was born here, the daughter of the controlling and demanding police chief, Clint. Her childhood does not hold fond memories. Becca now is a grown woman, age thirty, single and living with Matt, a patent attorney who is cheating on her. She is a runner, a veterinarian, and the owner of Romy, her faithful and much-loved German Shepherd. Her practice is in Columbia, NJ not far from her hometown.
She has always loved animals. They were of comfort to her during her turbulent childhood. A demanding father, a womanizer, and never faithful to her mom which he drove away. Years ago, a scared child, she stumbled upon something that frightened her. She happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. She tried to tell her dad, but he instructed her never to speak of this again She carried this secret and buried it deep in her mind.
Did her father send her away to protect her from harm? She did not know why. She never understood. Her mom and dad separated. Now her dad is dying. They are estranged. Her mom thinks she should visit him before he passes.
Could her dad hold the secret to the murder long ago and the one in the present?
John Jackson (very complicated) was older than her by fifteen years. He had been a part of her childhood. John’s dad Russell was a stepbrother to her dad, Clint. John had a troubled youth as well. He is a hunter.
His dad was part of a motorcycle club (gang) called the Scions. His dad had no patience for mistakes and no tolerance for the cowardly. John had no children and his late wife, Beth died of cancer three years earlier. Two stepbrothers on different sides of the law.
John had taken an oath to the club, twenty years ago and if there was one rule he lived by, the rule his old man, Russell had drilled into him ever since he was a small boy. It was that he put the club before himself, always, even if it meant giving his life. Now John answers to his father’s buddy Hap. John is a product of his environment.
Could he have been a different person without his father’s influence?
Detective Parker Reed is a State Police homicide investigator who works cases throughout Northampton County. He is from Portland, and he and Becca were childhood sweethearts. Now in charge of the current case, and recalls the twenty-year-old case from previous years when he was a child.
Will he be able to solve the crime before there is more collateral damage?
The Crime Twenty years ago there was an unsolved murder of a man. When the man’s body is pulled from the Delaware River, he had been shot, gutted, and field dressed as a deer. Now there is a similar murder. Could it possibly the same murderer? A copycat? What is the motive?
Becca, John, Parker, and Clint are connected to the murder. How? The past refuses to remain buried.
Becca has been summoned to her hometown. Her dad is dying. He has a lady friend, Jackie. Becca swore she would never return. She had never understood her father’s reasons for doing the things he had done. Her father did not like John nor did he get along with John’s father Russell, his stepbrother.
Filled with dread and fear, when she returns, she happens to once again be a part of the new crime.
Will the new crime bring back the memories she has kept hidden for years and reopen old wounds? Could she be in danger? Does she know too much? Why was this brutal murder so violent? What would make a person skin a human as an animal? Do humans repeat learned behavior?
Metaphors There is much to love here! Karen takes us below the surface of the human psyche. Good versus evil. With literary prose, there is the constant pull between fear, danger, protection, and love.
Water, the river, the woods, and nature can be beautiful, but at the same time, it can be dangerous, as with animals and humans (we find here).
Topics and Themes A twisty, unsettling, yet captivating thriller explores the relationships between fathers and daughters, and fathers and sons. Highly charged topics: psychological, repressed memories, secrets, fear, parents’ effect on a child’s behavior, as well and marital relationships, infidelity, narcissism, violence, forgiveness, fear, control, protection, old loves, love of animals, betrayal, friendship, love, loss, cancer, and grief plus more.
Whydunit versus Whodunit As with all her books, the author skillfully explores powerful, complex and high-charged topics and emotions. The intricacies of parent-child relationships and family dynamics. I enjoy the intriguing tie in with animals, nature, and the rich settings in her books as well as the "whydunit," versus the "whodunit."
A type of detective story in which the focus is not on who committed the crime, but what were their motives for committing it. I love her book covers and her keen sense of place with her bold and alluring settings which draw you in.
For Fans of For those fans of true-crime, families are torn apart by secrets of the past. Why? This is the ongoing question and the focus of RIVER BODIES. The author delivers a complex and gripping standout thriller! Written from different points of view and time periods, readers will be glued to the pages —anxiously awaiting the next in this riveting series.
Perfect for crime fans of Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Gilly MacMillan, and Lisa Unger with a mix of emotional domestic suspense/literary of Heather Gudenkauf, Mary Kubica, Randall Silvis, Diane Chamberlain, and T. Greenwood.
RIVER BODIES is prime for the big or small screen! (fingers crossed). 🤞Engrossing, unsettling, and atmospheric.
Highly Recommend! Katchur has outdone herself, and RIVER BODIES is her best yet! The author knows how to write gripping suspense while also delving deep into her characters’ minds and the darker parts of the human psyche, drawing on her background in criminal justice. A dark and twisted well-researched multi-generational tale with a meticulously-woven plot, multi-layered complex characters, with psychological depth. A “must-read” new series. An ideal selection for book clubs and further discussions. 5 Stars + Top Books of 2018 list.
Inspiration One of my FAVORITE interviews yet: Join me Nov 1:
• A Q&A with Karen Katchur: The inspiration behind the novel • Ten Facts about RIVER BODIES • An Elevator Ride with Fun Facts about the Author.
A quick teaser from the author (much more to come)
“When I was a young girl, I remember hearing about a man’s body that was pulled from the river. He was gutted like one would field dress a deer. I wanted to know why. Why this type of crime? Why this specific injury? My inspiration for the story came from a mix of curiosity and fear.”
Readers, you are in for a treat, Cold Bones #2 Northampton County is coming Aug. 2019 with more from Detective Parker Reed and his new partner Geena Brassard. Looking forward to learning about his past. Cannot wait!
If you have not read Karen's previous books, highly recommend! Read my reviews here:
Highly recommend the hardcover. The jacket is beautiful!🎁
Q&A With Author Nov 1
“Suspenseful…[The] gripping ending will leave readers eager for the sequel…”
“Katchur is an engaging writer who ably navigates the dynamics of small-town life and the darkness that lurks beneath…Suspense with a tense family drama at its core.”
10 New Fall Novels About Badass Women That Also Happen to Be Written by Badass Women. "[I]f you can't get enough of the true-crime craze of 2018, you'll love Karen Katchur's River Bodies. —PopSugar
"10 Spooky Books You Have to Read This Fall" —Parade
"The 10 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018" —WorkingMother.com
“Karen Katchur’s River Bodies has it all: a horrific murder, mysteries resurrected from the past, a story line packed with tension, and vivid characters to bring it all to life. A riveting thriller that suspense readers will love.” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author
“With a striking sense of place and a foreboding feeling of unease throughout, I was glued to the story. With relationships so complicated and layered that they feel like your own and plot twists that will leave you gasping, River Bodies is an unforgettable read.” —Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author
“Karen Katchur is a master at writing into the dark spaces of our intimate family relationships, and River Bodies is her most stunning work to date.” —Mindy Mejia, author of Everything You Want Me to Be
“River Bodies weaves an engrossing mystery with richly developed characters for an enjoyable, fast-paced read.” —Laura McHugh, award-winning author of The Weight of Blood
“Dark secrets of the past flow into the present in this emotionally resonant, deeply insightful tale of family bonds, betrayal, violence, and redemption. Part engrossing love story, part riveting murder mystery, River Bodies is a must read.” —A. J. Banner, USA Today bestselling author of The Twilight Wife
“Karen Katchur weaves together a twisting braid in River Bodies, a multigenerational tale that dares us to examine not only the secrets we hide but the reasons we hid them in the first place.” —Jenny Milchman, USA Today bestselling author
“River Bodies is a dark, fast-paced, and gripping suspense with characters you won’t forget. It’s filled with old family secrets designed to protect but that instead pull everyone apart. A must read!” —Hannah Mary McKinnon, author of The Neighbors
About the Author
Karen Katchur is an award-winning suspense novelist with a bachelor of science in criminal justice and a master’s in education.
She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.