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Monday, July 15, 2019

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

When I wasn't doing laundry, dishes, and some errand running on Sunday, I spent most of it inside gulping down this mystery. I came across it at the library and thought it would be a good switch from the two contemporary women's novels I'm reading now-kind of like the salty snack in between my sweets. 

A quick plot rundown: In 1983, a group of teenagers decide to camp out in the woods overnight. Plenty of booze, food, and drugs are involved. The seven teens range in age from 18 to 14. Aurora, the youngest, is tagging along with her sister Topaz, a beautiful teen who has her eye on Brett. At 18, Brett is the oldest, and a star athlete. Also in the mix: JoJo, Connor (who has a massive crush on Topaz), Coralie, and Daniel. Aurora is definitely out of her element with this group of popular kids, and Topaz is really annoyed her sister is there with the group. 

A night of drinking, drugs, dancing, and yes, some sex is a big blur for the teens. And when morning comes, Aurora is missing. Hungover from booze and drugs, memory is fragmented and confused for the remaining six. An investigation leads nowhere.

Aurora remains missing for 30 years, until a young girl camping with her family discovers a bone, and Aurora is finally found, not far from the original camp site. How could she have been missed all those years ago, when she was so close?

In steps DCI Jonah Sheens, who was a new police officer the night Aurora Jackson disappeared 30 years before. He went to school with the group, but didn't know them very well. Aurora's disappearance has haunted the community, and Jonah, too. Now her remains are found, and it's going to take some smart investigating to figure out how she died, and who did it: which of the six is the killer?

The build up to Aurora's murder was the best part of this mystery. Told from Aurora's viewpoint, her last day and night in the woods tick down, and your anxiety ratchets up. It was clever of the author to add the hour to each of Aurora's chapters, to enhance that anxiety. Aurora is the character we come to know best, even though she's only with us for a short time. 

Jonah and his team definitely are a good, solid group of people. Their individual background stories are slowly revealed, but since this is probably the start of a series, you just get a taste and quite a bit is left unanswered. Most especially Hansen, the new female investigator, and her abusive ex-boyfriend who continues to stalk her throughout the investigation.  

You may figure out who did it pretty quickly; I had my suspicions, but couldn't quite figure out the why. The investigation moves pretty quickly after a slow start, and there are some red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing. The last 75 pages move pretty swiftly towards the reveal of the killer and the motive. It was who I suspected; however what was more disturbing than the murder of Aurora was the life lived by the killer, and the manipulations that kept taking place for the next 30 years. Clever only goes so far before it all falls apart. 

This was a satisfying contemporary murder mystery/police procedural. Some of the characters remained a bit underdeveloped, and I think a bit more of that would have made the book longer, but more fleshed out and complete. I would probably read the second of the Jonah Sheens investigative novels.

Rating:  4/6 for a mystery that sets a hard task: how do you solve a murder that took place 30 years before? My big takeaway from this novel was sadness for the murder of an innocent 14 year old girl who had all of life ahead of her, but was caught up in a situation out of her control. The unanswered questions of her disappearance 30 years before still haunt the community, her family, and the six teens-now adults-who last saw her alive. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 


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