Mysterious Book Report The Weight of BloodThe Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Spiegel & Grau, $26.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-9520-6

The state of Missouri has long held an exalted place in American Literature, giving us such memorable fictional characters as Tom and Huck, and living legends like Frank and Jesse James. It’s an area that’s rich in lore and atmosphere, has enough history for several states and it’s known as the gateway to the west . . . where the pioneers assembled their wagon trains before setting out for California and Oregon. No wonder then, that the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri is the setting for an atmospheric new mystery by a promising young Midwestern author.

The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh is an outstanding debut about an isolated young woman’s attempt to uncover the truth about her mother, who disappeared when the girl was an infant. Was Lucy Dane abandoned by her mother, Lila . . . or was she murdered? Now on the verge of adulthood, Lucy has wondered what happened all of her life, without ever getting any useful information from her single parent construction worker father, Carl, or his entrepreneurial-minded brother, her uncle Clete. He seems to have a hand in just about everything that has to do with making money in Henbane, the remote Ozark hamlet where the Dane family has lived for generations. The urge to uncover the facts of her mother’s mysterious disappearance becomes an overwhelming compulsion when her friend Cheri . . . ‘who’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box, but a really nice person anyway’ . . . in Lucy’s own words . . . disappears and turns up dead, tangled in a skeletal tree that’s partly submerged in the river which runs through town. Lucy sets out with her friend Daniel to solve the pair of mysteries, but the deeper she digs, the more complex the tale becomes until she’s confronted with some shattering truth’s about herself, her mother and her father, her neighbors, the town of Henbane itself, and especially her uncle Clete, who just might be the deadliest character of all. This one’s a page turner for a fact, more fun than going to the county fair and full of great surprises, interesting characters and a wonderful sense of place that will leave you feeling as if you’re actually there!


John Dwaine McKenna