(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Girls She Left Behind, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Winter at the Door. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
Lizzie Snow has only been in tiny Bearkill, Maine, for a few weeks, but she's already making a name for herself as the new sheriff's deputy. For a dead-end town on the edge of the Great North Woods, the hamlet requires a surprising amount of work from its minuscule police department. Once a booming lumber town, the place retains a faded charm, but that's not what's keeping Lizzie there. An anonymous tip hinting that her niece, who's been missing for nine years, might be in the area is what's keeping the former homicide detective from sprinting back to Boston.
In the meantime, Lizzie's got a slew of problems right in her own backyard. The forest fire raging just outside of town worries her. As does the disappearance of 14-year-old Tara Wylie. Although the local teen has a habit of taking off without bothering to inform her single mother, a disturbing text indicates something sinister has happened to the girl. Tara's mother is frantic, but she's also lying to Lizzie. Why? The escape of Henry Gemerle, a man being held in the psych ward of a Connecticut forensic hospital after he was discovered holding girls hostage in his basement, is making everyone edgy. Has Tara been abducted by the monster? Or are she and her older boyfriend just off partying somewhere? Why is Tara's mother misleading Lizzie and her team? As shocking connections between the two cases come to light, Bearkill's new deputy will have to race against time, a deadly inferno, and a demented foe to protect the people of the tiny village she reluctantly calls home.
The last thing Lizzie needs are complications, but that's all she seems to be getting. And not just from Peg Wylie. Dylan Hudson, a Bangor detective who once shattered Lizzie's heart, wants another chance. Then there's Trey Washburn, a handsome local vet, who's never been shy about his interest in Bearkill's newcomer. Above all, Lizzie only cares about one thing—her niece. With so much else going on, is she letting valuable clues to Nicki's whereabouts slip by? Lizzie's got to keep her head in the game in order to save her niece, her town, and, ultimately, herself.
I thoroughly enjoyed Winter at the Door, the first installment in the Lizzie Snow series by Sarah Graves. The second, The Girls She Left Behind, is just as riveting. Although the reader knows many of the mystery's answers from the beginning of the novel, it's still a taut, engrossing read. Lizzie continues to be an understated heroine who impresses with her tough demeanor and quiet devotion. Bearkill becomes a character in its own right and not a romanticized one—Snow paints it as a desperate, down-and-out dwelling place, one that's as complex and compelling as each of its residents. Personally, I'm eager to see what will happen next in the unpredictable wooded hamlet. Surely, Lizzie has many more exciting adventures to come. I can't wait.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves and of the Bell Elkins series [A Killing in the Hills; Bitter River; Summer of the Dead; and Last Ragged Breath] by Julia Keller)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter
To the FTC, with love: Another library