Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

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Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is a novel of past tragedies and familial discord. Gudenkauf keeps the tension ratcheted up from page one to the final page. Sarah Quinlan thinks she has a good marriage. But a phone call from her husband’s hometown and slowly her world is going to be coming apart at the seams.

Sarah’s husband, Jack, receives a phone call from his family back in the small farming community of Penny Gate, Iowa. His Aunt Julia, who cared for him after the death of his parents is in the hospital after taking a terrible fall. Jack must go back home after being absent for over twenty years. For Sarah, it is the first time she is going to see the town her husband grew up in and the family he left behind.

Soon though, Sarah realizes that the facts of his past, as Jack had told her were not the truth. His parents did not die in a car accident. His mother had been murdered and the suspected killer was none other than his own father. She also learns that Jack is not quite the good man, that he too has a past that she knows nothing about. But it may even be more daunting as they all begin to learn that Julia’s fall may not be an accident after all.

This is a book that probably deserves a much more positive review than I’m going to give it. First off is that there is really a fairly good mystery here. A murder that spanned generations of the Quinlan family and now looks to have been repeated. Each character, while on the surface seems to be innocent, has their own secrets. Sarah begins to unravel each and every one and with the help of the local law enforcement, slowly brings the truth to the surface.

My problem is with Sarah. Seriously, a third of the way through and I’m really hoping the killer gets her and someone else takes over the narrative. Your husband returns home to the place his mother was murdered, only to witness the death of his Aunt who cared for him and you feel after twenty years, this is a good time to pester him about family secrets. No sweetie, this doesn’t make sense to me, it doesn’t matter that you are in mourning right now or that you are in pain from the memories, you need to tell me everything I’m insensitively curious about right now! Oh wait, you were screwing around with the woman who married your cousin twenty years ago? Now you are talking to her over a dinner table in her own house? Now I’m jealous too!

Sarah’s inquisitiveness and lack of compassion as the central character are out of place at this time of the Aunt’s death. She seems to make it all about her when she isn’t really even in any danger. If she was in danger than maybe, but no, she’s mad because people aren’t dredging up the tragic past and sharing all the family secrets with someone they had just met.

But she does find someone who is willing to share all the gossip. A police dispatcher who actually finds and steals the crime file on Jack’s mother’s murder from twenty years past and gives it to Sarah who she just met. Because, you know, that’s what police dispatcher’s do.

She also finds people willing to talk about her husband and give away family secrets because in a small farming town that’s what people do with complete strangers they’ve just met. Actually, that is the opposite of what happens in small communities. Small communities are notorious for not speaking with people they consider to be, outsiders.

Now, because she didn’t get all the straight up gossip from her husband about the brutal beating and murder of his own mother, she can’t trust him and in the space of a few days feels she must leave him and you know what else? He just might be the murderer!!!!

Yeah, sort of lost me there. The character of Sarah is like listening to any irrational moment that has ever happened in the history of mankind. She builds a wall of mistrust with her husband within a day of being back in Penny Gate, guess all those years of marriage really don’t count for much. Her readiness to doubt him and convict him just don’t ring true.

A good premise and good mystery but lost me with the characters. Sarah especially.

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One thought on “Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

  1. I am probably not going to read this book because I found out everything I needed to know about the book from this highly interesting review. Lots and lots of interesting counterpoints.

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