This is the second of two books in a series involving Laura Chambers, an investigative reporter who has returned to her small town in central North Carolina. While this certainly is a book you can read as a stand alone, I recommend you start with the first book of the series, “Last Girl Gone.” I suggest this because Hetherton’s writing is so worth reading and there are definite references to the past (first book) in “What Lies Beneath.” I knew right away that this would be part thriller, part heartbreaking, part just lovely, lovely writing. Laura grew up on a 100 acre farm that abutted her friend Emily Merritt’s 100 acre farm. Laura’s father was a drunk with PTSD from serving in Vietnam, but she fiercely loved him and learned from him about hunting, how not to get lost in a cornfield and about making her way in the world, no matter what it throws at her. She is only semi-successful at this. Her now asthmatic mother has always been indifferent, narcissistic and hard on Laura. To eight year old Laura, the Merritts were picture perfect, kind and loving.with both Emily and Laura. Both families lives are hardscrabble. When the girls are eight, they are separated by a tragedy and we are brought to present day Hillsborough. The local newspaper editor, Bass is thrilled to have a talented and experienced staffer and gives Laura a long leash. At the outset, Laura is following and writing about the imminent execution of the “Shotgun Slayer,” a man who spent twenty years on death row and has reached the end of his appeals. Her interests abruptly turn to a new story when Laura is called to an accident scene to identify the victim. The last number the victim called was Laura’s and Laura has no idea who she is. Laura’s past investigative work has not endeared her to one of the local police officers and none of them are her buddies. One is outright hostile to her. She catches up with a close friend who is retired from the force. He has a bloodhound. Together, they begin to find pieces of information leading to a very, very well kept secret that puts them in danger. At first, I thought the mystery was going to be too obvious. Every single clue is there but the resolution is definitely not obvious. Several of the characters are richly drawn and the writing is so good I finished this book in less than a day. I love the complex use of language, some parts that are lyrical and references that show the writer is a deep thinker. But it is an easy book to read. As perfect as it gets in my world: sophisticated but not a slog. I am very very stingy with five stars but realized I liked this that much. I’ve also secured a copy of the first book and hope Hetherton writes and publishes anything at all because he deserves our attention.
LAST GIRL GONE – J.G. HETHERTON
Well, I did it. I listened to the audible version of Last Girl Gone, the first Laura Chambers book. It has all of the elements I described in my review of What Lies Beneath: wonderful writing, interesting and well-drawn characters, a plot that is both twisted and very sad about abductions of little girls in the present and the past. Get going J.G. Hetherton. I want the third book.