Today’s novel for Mystery Monday is the latest novel by Julie Ann Lindsey called In Place of Never. I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the first book by Lindsey that I’ve read and it won’t be the last, of that I’m certain.
Lindsey is telling a story of romance, mystery, small town paranoia, loss, and restoration. Mercy is the middle daughter of the Porter family. Her father is the pastor of the local church, her younger sister Pru (Prudence) is a fairly typical teenager, and Mercy is preparing to head off to Tennessee Temple College, just like her older sister Faith was preparing to do 3 years earlier when the Lovells’ Travelling Sideshow came to town to help celebrate the River Festival.
The morning the Lovell’s broke camp and headed to greener pastures was the same morning that Faith’s body washed ashore. While the coroner ruled accidental drowning, Mercy knew her Dad blamed the Lovells for Faith’s death and it certainly had seemed suspicious the way they had disappeared suddenly. Things had rapidly spiralled downhill when the rumour mill suggested it had been a suicide, and three months later, Mercy’s mother took an overdose of sleeping pills.
Now, a family crisis surrounding Pru pulls their dad back into parent mode, and for the first time in three years, the Lovells’ caravan has pulled into town one month early for River Festival. Mercy decides that she “wouldn’t leave for college without telling Faith’s story”. She had to find out what had happened to her sister. Lifeguards don’t drown accidentally. And, while she didn’t believe the Lovells were responsible for Faith’s death, she knew her sister had sneaked out to the Sideshow and some of the Lovells might have seen her, might know who she had been with, might even have seen something that would solve the mystery of how her sister had drowned. Despite her father’s adamant orders to stay away from everyone connected to the Sideshow, Mercy sets out on her mission to determine exactly what happened that had set her family, the whole town, actually, upside down, and that includes asking questions at the campsite.
This is a truly believable story of what can happen to a small community, and particularly to a close-knit family, when tragedy strikes and there are no answers — only guilt, regret, and confusion. At the beginning of the story, the three remaining members of the Porter family have spent three years trying to cope in their own way instead of helping each other. They have become a dysfunctional family. But as the story progresses, Mercy learns more about each member of her family and comes to realize that she is the key to bringing everything back into perspective. She can help both her family and the town have closure. With the help of a member of the Sideshow, she slowly pieces together the events that led to Faith’s drowning, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more she realizes the danger she is in — someone is stalking her movements.
This story is tender, yet full of suspense and pathos. Mercy and her younger sister, Pru (wise beyond her years), make an engaging duo, and the people from the Sideshow bring a wide range of characters to the story — some of them mysterious, and some plain dangerous, or possibly just insane. One, Cross, becomes Mercy’s staunch and protective ally. The plot twists like the river through the town, and history almost repeats itself before the mystery unravels. An excellent read. This book will be available Feb. 2nd at Amazon and other fine booksellers. * * * *
It’s very easy to participate in my Mystery Monday meme. Just post a review of your latest mystery read on your own site, and then a comment on my post with a link to yours. Drag or copy my meme logo and add it to your post along with these few rules. Simplicity itself! I look forward to learning about more great mysteries to add to my ever-growing list of To Be Read.