Review: Sarah Quinlan is the wife of Jack for twenty years, mother of twin daughters just entering college, and a newspaper advice columnist living on Larkspur Lake in Montana. Jack had never said much about his childhood, except that he had lived in Penny Gate, Iowa, and that his parents had died in an automobile accident when he was fifteen and Amy, his sister, was eleven. Until Jack was old enough to attend college he lived with their aunt and uncle. One day, Jack gets a call that his Aunt Julia was hurt badly from a fall down a flight of stairs and was in the hospital in a coma. After staying away from his childhood home for many years Jack returns with Sarah to face the demons that he has held secret in his life for so long, in Missing Pieces, a novel of suspense by Heather Gudenkauf.
Shortly after they arrived, Julia has a seizure and dies. It soon becomes obvious to the doctor that Julia's accident was not an accident at all. All signs point to Amy, now a troubled adult, as a person of interest. Unlike the rest of the family, Amy smoked, took drugs and was an alcoholic. But, she loved her Aunt and seemingly had no reason to harm her in any way. Nonetheless, Amy is taken into custody by the police. When Sarah talks with other members of the family, she discovers that Jack's parents did not die in an automobile accident. His mother died while being beaten badly by someone and pushed down the basement steps, where Jack found her when he returned home from school. Jack was taken into custody as the possible suspect. His father, however, fled town and never found so Jack was released and his father still remains the prime suspect of her murder. Could there be a connection between the two deaths even after all these years? Sarah also learns that Jack's birth name is not Quinlan. He had his aunt and uncle adopt him and Amy after his father disappeared. There are other secrets that make Sarah wonder why Jack had not been truthful with her all these years. She comes to think she had never known the man she was married to. Having once been a reporter traveling all over for news stories, Sarah is now more than curious than ever as to why so much of Jack's life was kept from her. She begins to search for answers to try to put this convoluted story together. The more she finds out the more she tends to think Jack is, indeed, capable of murder and the more danger she puts herself in.
Missing Pieces has an intriguing premise but the characters are largely lacking depth. As the lead, Sarah seems well-developed but there's always a nagging question in the reader's mind: As an experienced, and presumably able investigative reporter, why do all of these revelations about her husband of twenty years come as a surprise now? The Quinlan family is particularly featureless and shallow, integral to the story, to be sure, but often fading into the background. Finally, the whodunit element — if, indeed, that is what it is supposed to be — is clumsily handled. What could have been, and probably should have been, an interesting novel of suspense ultimately disappoints.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Missing Pieces.
Acknowledgment: Harlequin provided a copy of Missing Pieces for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Missing Pieces: Iowa
— ♦ —
Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf — A Novel of Suspense
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: February 2016
List Price: $26.99
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites