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Gudenkauf Missing Pieces cover
Sarah and Jack Quinlan have been married for two decades, and they live in Montana with their twin daughters, age 18. So Sarah would think she knows Jack VERY well. But, when they get a phone call that Jack’s aunt in the Midwest has taken a bad fall and may be near death, they fly back – the first time Jack has been home in over 20 years!

Sarah had heard the version of Jack’s younger years that had his parent dying in a car crash and Jack and his sister Amy being raised by their aunt (now dying). When the Quinlans leave their home in idyllic Larkspur Lake, Montana and go to the rural hamlet of Penny Gate where Jack grew up, secrets begin to emerge from the shadows. They arrive to see his aunt die while his sister Amy (who has fallen on hard times) stands vigil at the hospital.

We learn that Jack’s mother didn’t actually die in a car crash, but suffered a similar fate to her sister (Jack’s beloved aunt) with fatal repercussions, followed shortly by the disappearance of Jack’s father – of course, everyone assumes he murdered his wife then hit the road. Dad’s whereabouts and the question of his guilt have yet to be answered.

Amy becomes the prime suspect in their aunt’s death, but Jack is also a suspect due to his adolescent rebellion and his well-known family quarrels over his girlfriend Celia who later married his cousin Dean. Dean is also a suspect, as is his father Hal.

Sarah is reeling as she learns about the number and seriousness of Jack’s secrets and she decides to solve the mystery, both to clear Jack who is a prime suspect and to find out just what really happened when his mother died. in a freak incident in 1985. Somebody is sending her threatening emails. Whoever is sending the emails plainly knows Sarah is an anonymous advice columnist for her small town paper in Montana. Very few people know her undercover identity, so whoever is targeting people in Jack’s family may be targeting her.

The list of suspects is loooooong, and Sarah feels alone as she tries to figure things out, with the help of Margaret Dooley, who works in the sheriff’s office and becomes the one person Sarah feels she can trust. Soon, Sarah is targeted by someone, but it’s not at all clear who that person (or persons) might be…

This book definitely lived up to the description of page turner! Admittedly, I am not the best at figuring out mysteries, but it really did kept me guessing until near the end.

I haven’t been a huge Heather Gudenkauf fan before this, but I enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. Despite the somewhat familiar plot technique of returning to a hometown and having family secrets erupt, which I thought might make it somewhat derivative/boring, I think it was well done, and appreciate receiving an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for my review. Four stars.

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