Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Before She Was Found

Park Row Books: 4/16/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780778307730 

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is a very highly recommended psychological thriller and mystery. I could not put this novel down!

Twelve-year-old Cora, Violet, and Jordyn are having a sleepover at Cora's home in the small town of Pitch Iowa. When they decide to sneak outside and go to the abandoned rail yard, the end result is Cora found severely beaten, Violet is in shock and covered in blood, and Jordyn is at her home with her grandfather. The police and the parents are trying to find answers to who did this and why, but the answers are much more complicated than first imagined. Who could be responsible for this kind of crime? 

Cora has been struggling to make friends and navigate the emotional cesspool that is Middle School. Violet is shy, new to town, and it looks like she and Cora are going to be good friends. Jordyn is the school queen bee and a bully. She has been cruel to Cora, so her change of heart is suspect. The three girls have been working together on a class project on urban legends. They have chosen a local man, Joseph Wither, who was lived decades ago and is reputed to be a killer of young high school girls over the years. The three supposedly thought they were going to the rail yard to meet a man claiming to be Wither, who would be in his 90's now. 

Before She Was Found opens with the assault and then the past events leading up to are slowly disclosed. The narrative unfolds through the point-of-view of several different characters along with journal entries, text messages, therapist notes, and police interrogations. There are so many layers to this story and as each new clue is revealed, your suspect will change. Finding answers through girls who aren't able to say what happened, parents who are protecting their kids, authorities who are struggling to find clues and answers makes the investigation into the truth complicated and constantly changing. The ending is absolutely disquieting and stunning.

The writing is superb and the pacing of the narrative is perfect. I was totally immersed in the mystery and compulsively said "Just one more chapter..." while trying to figure out what happened. The characters were all believable and well-developed, although they aren't all reliable. At the conclusion of Before She Was Found I sat there, stunned. I did not even have a hint of a guess about what really happened. Before She Was Found is an excellent novel, compelling and engrossing throughout the whole novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books.

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