Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Review: Arrowood by Laura McHugh

2016  288 pages  Century

Arrowood lies amongst the ornate historical houses that line the Mississippi River in Southern Iowa - a house rich with money, history, and mystery. It has been nearly twenty years since Arden Arrowood’s infant twin sisters vanished under her watch, never to be seen again. The disappearance of the twins broke Arden’s family – her parents divorced and they moved from the house that has been in her family for generations. But the mystery was never solved and now Arden has inherited Arrowood, allowing her to finally return to her childhood home. Still clinging to the hope that her sisters might still be alive, Arden is anxious yet determined to finally uncover the truth about what happened that fateful summer day.

I was really intrigued by the premise of this novel. A mystery thriller concerning two long-lost sisters, told from the perspective of their older sister who, just a child herself when they vanished, has been trying to make sense of what happened. The story was quite slow to begin with and it took a little time for my interest to really be captured which left me thinking this wouldn’t likely get higher than three stars for me. There isn’t anything particularly extraordinary about McHugh’s prose and even now I feel that four stars might be a little bit generous, but the act is that once holes began to appear in the original theory behind the twins’ disappearance, I was hooked and just had to know what happened. It’s not the fastest moving thriller but it still manages to turn out to be an enjoyable story, suitable if you want a quick entertaining beach read that isn’t too heavy.

The story is told in first person narrative by Arden, who comes across as a bit of an unreliable narrator – she’s clearly gone through some distressing times since her sisters disappeared, and her desire for the truth about her sisters is clouded by what she wants to believe is true. Arden is approached by amateur detective Josh Kyle who has read in to the twins’ disappearance and believes there were faults in the primary investigation. But digging up the past means revisiting all parts of Arden’s old life: her former best friend and old love Ben, her sordid family affairs, and her childhood memories which she increasingly starts to doubt. There’s definitely a lot more to this story than meets the eye and even as things slowly begin to make sense, yet more secrets emerge. It looks very simple on the surface but there are lots of layers to this story which is what made it so gripping – it really feels like you’re delving in to the complicated past of a family full of secrets.

Arrowood is a very quick read and despite its relaxed start I found it to be a worthwhile and intriguing mystery that had me constantly questioning what the outcome would be. Are the twins alive? Are Arden’s memories correct? Everything is cloaked with ambiguity and you’re never sure which direction things will go in. Getting past the first couple of plodding chapters paid off because ultimately I did end up liking this a lot more than I initially thought I would.  

Overall rating: 4 stars

My proof copy Arrowood was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review was originally published on their website.

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