This was a really good audiobook. I listened to it in just about one day. There were several different readers, and they all did their parts well. The author has created an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, capturing the reader’s interest from the get-go. The only problem was that it took me awhile to figure out that there were two stories being told concurrently, in two different time frames, about 18 years apart, with some characters appearing in both. Lila and her daughter Lucy are the main characters, and they are both naïve, but romantic, young women.
The background story is about Lila Petrovich, a naive orphan from Iowa. Her once idyllic life, on a farm, ended when her parents were killed in a car crash. She was sent to foster homes from the time she was 12, but at 18, she aged out of the system and took a job in Henbane, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains, working for the Dane family at their restaurant and doing odd jobs as needed in the slow season. Henbane is also a poisonous plant that is sometimes used medicinally. Lila was to be provided with room and board, as well as a salary. She has no other options in life, so she takes the job, hoping to save some money so she can take an apartment and one day support herself. She knows very little about her employer or her responsibilities.
Crete and Carl Dane are brothers, ten years apart, bound by blood to protect each other. The Dane family was once the town’s gravediggers, but in the small town, there was no longer a great need for grave-digging. The farm was left to the older brother, Crete. Carl works in construction. Their mom is in a nursing home, suffering from some mental decline.
Crete seems nice at first, but soon he becomes a bit more overwhelming. Carl is the softer of the brothers. There are other people working on the property. One is a woman called Ransome, who tends the farm and who also lives in a cottage on the property. Another is Gabby who trains Lila at the restaurant/gas station and becomes her friend. Lila falls in love and marries Carl. Her child is named Lucy. One day, when she is 20, Lila goes off, disappears and is never found. Carl is overcome with grief and begins to drink. Others take care of Lucy in the interim. Stories grow up about Lila’s disappearance. She is often referred to as a kind of a witch. She was beautiful and people were somehow drawn to her, therefore thinking she had powers.
Lucy, Lila’s daughter, was only a baby when her mother disappeared. She grows up in Henbane. It is a small town (created by the author), and there are no secrets there, except those they want to keep. At 18, she too goes to work for Uncle Crete. Carl Dane is her father. Also working for her uncle is a boy named Dan. She remembers him fondly from a game of spin the bottle when they were kids. Their friendship grows as they work together.
There is a girl Cheri, who also lives in Henbane. She and Lucy are sort of friends. Bess is also Lucy’s friend. Bess is Gabby’s daughter. The different generations are connected. Cheri is a bit slow, not quite right, but Lucy and Cheri laugh together. Cheri has no home life. Her mom is a single mother unable to handle the responsibility of her family. One day, Cheri disappears. Her mom thinks she ran away. When her body is discovered, this once ignored child becomes a celebrity with townspeople who claim a connection to her, although they formerly ignored her. Lucy decides to try and solve the murder mystery and also the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. With Dan, she explores different possibilities and discovers little clues in unexpected places.
The story moves along quickly and tension is created on almost every page, but not the kind that raises your blood pressure, rather the kind that raises your curiosity. Even the gruesome details do not seem to rise to the horrific heights of some murder mysteries, and that to me was a good thing.
The story goes back and forth between Lila’s and Lucy’s stories and sometimes, when a different character is featured, it gets a little confusing. I actually made some notes to connect certain characters and their lineage, but although it was sometimes disorienting, it was never overwhelming.
The book is a good vacation read. It is not going to tax your brain, but it is not going to lull you to sleep either. There are a slew of characters, and they play their parts well. I think this book could be a crossover from adult to young adult since the main characters are both around 18 years old. There are some gruesome scenes of violence, and there is some graphic sex, but it is minimal. Enjoy the read!