Reviews for Weight of Blood

Booklist Reviews 2013 October #2
McHugh sets her first novel in a starkly rendered fictional Missouri town located in the Ozarks. Lucy Dane is shocked to learn that the dismembered body of her childhood friend, the slow-witted Cheri Stoddard, who had been missing for a year, has been found in the branches of a tree. Desperate to learn how Cheri came to such a tragic end, Lucy begins to look for answers to a mystery that echoes the disappearance of her own mother years ago. Many people in town know more than they're saying, including Birdie, the local midwife, and Ransome, a weather-beaten farmhand now confined to a nursing home. But only Daniel, her handsome coworker, offers her real help. As her search takes her closer to her own family members and old secrets, Lucy must confront the fact that the people she loves are deeply flawed. This suspenseful novel, with a barn burner of a plot, is told from several points of view, including that of Lucy's mother. Despite some missteps, McHugh shows herself to be a compelling writer intimately familiar with rural poverty and small-town weirdness; the best is yet to come. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2014 March
Ozark Mountain community haunted by two disappearances

Let’s get one thing straight: With The Weight of Blood, it’s clear that Laura McHugh is more than a pretender to the throne of the “rural noir” genre. If her dazzling and disturbing debut novel is anything to go by, she’s got her eye on the crown and has more than the necessary talent and skills to nab it for herself. Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back.

Lucy Dane has lived in Henbane all 17 years of her life, but she is ostracized by many of the town’s locals because of malicious rumors surrounding her mother, an exotic and bewitching outsider who disappeared without a trace when Lucy was just a baby. So when Lucy’s friend, Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy finds that the loss dredges up many of the long-buried questions about the day her mother wandered into Old Scratch Cavern with a pistol in hand and was never seen again. As Lucy digs deeper into what happened to Cheri, she begins uprooting the tenuous foundation of her own life—and discovers that some things may be better left lost.

The Weight of Blood is a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. McHugh, who moved to the Ozarks with her family as a preteen, elegantly interweaves the stories of Lucy and her mother, Lila, shifting between narratives to delicately ratchet up the tension and ensnare her audience, like a sly spider crafting a beautiful but deadly web. The pacing is swift, the writing redolent, and McHugh is not afraid to burrow into some very dark territory—readers will gasp in a mixture of surprise, horror and delight as pieces of her gruesome puzzle begin to slide into place. The Weight of Blood rewards its readers with a suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Laura McHugh for The Weight of Blood.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2014 February #1
A teenager investigates a friend's murder and learns much more than she bargained for. McHugh's debut interweaves two parallel stories, set almost two decades apart. We begin with Lucy, who relates that the dismembered body of her school friend Cheri, a mentally disabled 18-year-old who had been missing a year, was found near a creek outside the remote town of Henbane, in the Missouri Ozarks. Approximately 18 years earlier, Lila, a young Iowa woman who has just aged out of foster care, is placed by an agency in a job with Crete Dane, who owns Dane's, a restaurant/general store, and a lot of other Henbane real estate. Lila's job is supposed to include room and board, but the room is a stifling one in Crete's garage, the food is intermittent, and Crete withholds most of her pay. Back in the present, Lucy, 17, has just taken a summer job with her uncle Crete. Mostly, her duties involve waitressing at Dane's, but when she and another teenager, Daniel, are assigned to clean out a remote trailer in the woods, the teens notice obvious signs of a struggle and something else: a necklace that Lucy had given Cheri. This discovery sends Lucy and Daniel on a quest to find Cheri's killer. Meanwhile, in the past, Lila, whose beauty both enthralls and disturbs Henbane's downtrodden townsfolk, learns the real nature of her job: Crete plans to force her into prostitution. Enraged that she prefers his brother Carl, Crete rapes Lila and inflicts a festering bite, then holds Lila captive in her garage room until Carl intervenes, eventually leading to an intersection of past and present. McHugh's evocation of the rugged setting and local speech patterns starkly reveals the menace lurking beneath Henbane's folksy facade. However, a misguided authorial attempt to find the good in Crete only muddies the novel's moral waters, since nothing can mitigate or redeem the evil he inflicts. An accomplished literary thriller. Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 October #1

In this darkly suspenseful debut, 16-year-old Lucy is regarded as an outsider by her Ozarks neighbors because her beautiful, haunting mother was a stranger who eventually disappeared. Now Lucy's lovely but slow-witted friend, Cheri, has been murdered, and Lucy wants answers. With targeted promotion, including movie theater giveaways, suggesting that something interesting is going on here.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #1

Debut novelist McHugh comes out swinging with this gripping tale set in the Ozarks of Missouri. Lucy Dane's family is intricately linked to the "hollers" and woods of her hometown of Henbane: her father and uncle grew up there, and her mother--a bewitching young beauty named Lila--disappeared from the area when Lucy was just a year old. When her friend Cheri goes missing and is later found murdered, Lucy begins to investigate the crime. But her search for the truth soon expands to include the mystery of her mother's disappearance--and it puts Lucy herself in jeopardy. By telling the story from multiple points of view, McHugh reveals some of the town's dark secrets even as Lucy works to uncover them. Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life in Henbane. VERDICT Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French. [See Prepub Alert, 9/13/13.]--Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #2

In this clever, multilayered debut, McHugh deftly explores the past of an Ozark Mountain family (think doublewides, pickups, and possum stew) with plenty to hide and the ruthlessness to keep their secrets hidden. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Dane, from Henbane, Mo., is grieving for her murdered friend, Cheri, and her mother, Lila, who vanished soon after Lucy was born. Determined to solve both mysteries, Lucy never realizes just how close the answers might lie. Her father, Carl, and her uncle, Crete, are not forthcoming about what they know, which only makes her more curious. McHugh alternates narrators, presenting each chapter from one character's perspective, but the most compelling is Lila's (given in flashbacks to her arrival in the area 18 years earlier, as a contract farm employee of Uncle Crete). Young Lila's hopes for a fresh start after a childhood spent bouncing from one foster home to another are dashed when she painfully learns that Crete plans to put her to work as a prostitute. In the present, Lucy uncovers evidence that puts her in jeopardy, leading to sudden, surprising violence, followed by a tornado that helps wipe the slate clean. This is an outstanding first novel, replete with suspense, crisp dialogue, and vivid Ozarks color and atmosphere. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Union Literary. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC