Let’s get one thing straight: With The Weight of Blood, it’s clear that Laura McHugh is more than a pretender to the throne of the “rural noir” genre. If her dazzling and disturbing debut novel is anything to go by, she’s got her eye on the crown and has more than the necessary talent and skills to nab it for herself. Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back.

Lucy Dane has lived in Henbane all 17 years of her life, but she is ostracized by many of the town’s locals because of malicious rumors surrounding her mother, an exotic and bewitching outsider who disappeared without a trace when Lucy was just a baby. So when Lucy’s friend, Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy finds that the loss dredges up many of the long-buried questions about the day her mother wandered into Old Scratch Cavern with a pistol in hand and was never seen again. As Lucy digs deeper into what happened to Cheri, she begins uprooting the tenuous foundation of her own life—and discovers that some things may be better left lost.

The Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. McHugh, who moved to the Ozarks with her family as a preteen, elegantly interweaves the stories of Lucy and her mother, Lila, shifting between narratives to delicately ratchet up the tension and ensnare her audience, like a sly spider crafting a beautiful but deadly web. The pacing is swift, the writing redolent, and McHugh is not afraid to burrow into some very dark territory—readers will gasp in a mixture of surprise, horror and delight as pieces of her gruesome puzzle begin to slide into place. The Weight of Blood rewards its readers with a suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Laura McHugh for The Weight of Blood.

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