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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Gudenkauf Thriller Keeps Me Up Way Past My Bedtime

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When it comes to scaring the kids of little Pitch, Iowa, the tale of Joseph Wither—an alleged murderer who lived locally decades ago—is right up there with Bloody Mary and The Vanishing Hitchhiker.  So, when a junior high school teacher gives her class an assignment to research an urban legend, 12-year-old Violet Crow and two of her classmates decide to look more closely at the Wither story.  Obsessed with the creepy tale, the girls agree to a late-night meeting at an abandoned rail yard with someone claiming to be Joseph.  Hours later, one of them is found beaten near to death.  The other two are in shock, refusing to speak about the incident.  What really happened that night in the rail yard?  Was Cora attacked by a supernatural entity?  Or someone much more corporeal?  

Despite its simple premise, Before She was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is a taut, twisty thriller with an ending I didn't see coming.  Populated with interesting characters, the novel also poses some intriguing questions about the dangers of hysteria and groupthink as well as asking how far a parent will go to protect their child.  Atmospheric and engrossing, this one kept me reading late into the night, desperate to know what was going to happen next. 

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. I thought this one was a good twisty thriller, too. And I liked how Gudenkauf wove the separate narratives together. :)

  2. I just read my first Gudenkauf in a long time and loved it, I will add this one. Great review Susan.

  3. I have this one but haven't picked it up as yet. I've read other books by this author and liked them a lot. This one sounds like a good 'fall' read - spooky enough...

  4. I haven't read anything by Gudenkauf and I've been wanting to. This definitely sounds like one that would keep me up way too late!

  5. The plot sounds like something I've read a few times before, but from your review the author nailed it. I know there are only so many plots out there and that it's the variations of those plots that make books seem fresh, but I would have probably not given this one a chance just based on the bare facts. Good review.

  6. I liked this one, too. I don't remember loving it, but it kept my attention.


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