The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
~Synopsis from goodreads
16 year old Lucy is troubled by the disappearance of two people in her life – her close friend Cheri and her mother Lila who disappeared when she was too small; both without much explanations. Cheri’s body later turns up in a hollow tree trunk, cut up into pieces and this incident troubles everyone in Henbane a lot.
In the beginning, I was little confused with the time frames when there were different chapters dedicated for narration by Lucy and Lila and it took me some time to realize that they belong to mother and daughter and are set in different time frames. Once this is clear, I was able to appreciate the story more.
Laura McHugh has written a wonderful story for a debut novel and this was a fast read and the mysteries surrounding the disappearances are revealed slowly and this makes it a gripping tale.
The best way to describe the feeling of the main character Lucy is by this quote :
“You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There’s no forsaking kin but you can’t help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family.”
This is a dark novel with dark secrets hidden in the dark alleys in a secluded town and people are not too much bothered as long it they feel safe. The fact that people could hide so many secrets behind their faces and family may not mean that you are truly protected from evil are things that Lucy learns eventually.Sometimes judging between right and wrong is easy; but most cases they are not so black and white when family is involved. Carl (Lucy’s father) is another character that has been well developed towards the second half of the story.
This novel is certainly dark, gripping and unsettling but Laura McHugh has done a splendid job to make it an awesome read for you. Crete (Carl’s brother) is another important character whose good and bad sides are equally compelling. He is protective when it comes to family though all his other actions brings out the darkness in him.
The ending is slightly convenient though not very convincing, but then no one is complaining; the reader and Henbane is left slightly more peaceful.
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
First Release: Feb 2014
Note: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher through netgalley in return for my honest review.