Random House, August 9, 2016.
After the death of her father, twenty-something Arden inherits her ancestral home of Arrowood, an ornate historical house on the Mississippi River in Iowa. Located in the small town of Keokuk, Arden’s presence is instantly noticed by the community that knew her has a child – her family left town after the disappearance of Arden’s twin sisters. The girls, under two years old, vanished on a sunny, peaceful afternoon, making the crime all the more shocking. As the older sister, Arden still carries the guilt of losing the twin girls.
Arden inherits Arrowood at a time when she is floundering in her academic career due to a failed relationship with her professor. She escapes to her childhood home, but she is also faced with the obligation of exposing the family mystery – and with generations of untimely deaths in the house, it is filled with ghosts, real and imagined. An eerie, menacing atmosphere invades Arrowood with its damp, musty darkness, yet it could have been much darker with more build up to the reveal.
While Arden is a strong, convincing character, many of the minor characters were unbelievable. The overall pacing of the story is inconsistent, with a slow loss of focus in the middle and an ending that felt too rushed. The setting of Keokuk, Iowa is strong – especially McHugh’s descriptions of a once proud and beautiful town falling into the depression of a failing economy. The focus on historical architecture and haunted old homes is well done and steeped in nostalgia.
Although this is yet another novel about missing girls, I wouldn’t call it a thriller. It is somewhat psychological, but the pace is slow and almost meditative. It is more of a literary mystery – a character study of Arden’s own psychological issues, as seen through the lens of the childhood tragedy of her sisters. It is a novel about the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and the ways in which memories are manipulated. The fate of the missing girls isn’t completely shocking – following heavy foreshadowing – but it is still an entertaining story.
I received this novel from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.