When Hud Matthews was 8 years old, his mother got dressed up & went out for a night on the town. She never came back. He was raised by his grandmother Gee, the only family he had in the small lakeside community. She did her best but Hud grew up haunted by his loss, the not knowing.
After high school, he fled to Detroit & started a new life as a cop. Now a shootout under murky circumstances has left him with bullet wounds & a lot of time on his hands. But the biggest blow is news of Gee’s death. He heads back to deal with her estate & the ghost that has been waiting for his return.
When chief of police Paul Burke offers him a job, Hud sees an opportunity to dig into his mother’s disappearance & find some peace. It’s time.
But the sleepy little town is jolted awake when a young woman’s body is discovered by the lake. And she won’t be the last.
Game on. We follow Hud as the investigation takes some nasty turns & he’s tested by new colleagues. Murder is rare in these parts & Hud brings experience to the job but he’s not exactly welcomed with open arms. His past is the elephant in the room & you get the feeling several of these characters know much more than they’re willing to tell. Hud’s questions are met with stony silence & slammed doors. His frustration is palpable & it’s in these moments we catch glimpses of the little boy who just wants his mom to come home.
He’s also trying to reconcile his memories of a placid, sunlit resort town with the present day reality of a place hit hard by the economic downturn & people hardened by shuttered businesses & dead end jobs. It’s interesting to note we’re never given the name of the town. Instead, the author uses well defined characters & descriptions of crumbling buildings to give the place its identity. It creates an uneasy undercurrent that runs through the story, of something lurking just around the corner.
The author does a great job of describing small town life where everyone knows your business & secrets are handed down through generations like the family silver. Finding a killer isn’t easy when no one will talk & there are more than a few surprises in store as we gradually learn the connections between past & present.
There are passages scattered through the story where Hud is being questioned by an anonymous interrogator. It’s not immediately clear when or where this is taking place & it’s only after the hair raising finish that we understand the significance of these sessions.
This is a richly atmospheric book chock full of suspense & misdirection with a MC who will break your heart. Hud is a smart, strong yet flawed man nursing an old wound, reminiscent of Reed Farrel Coleman’s character of Gus Murphy from “Where it Hurts”. It’s an engrossing, well paced read that keeps you guessing & although the killer is unmasked, not everything is neatly tied up. The ending makes it clear there is much more to Hud’s story & I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for book #2.