cover image Tell Me What I Am

Tell Me What I Am

Una Mannion. Harper, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-331477-1

Mannion (A Crooked Tree) explores the long shadow of domestic violence in this outstanding mystery. In 2004, Nessa Garvey’s sister, Deena, disappears after leaving their shared Philadelphia apartment for work. Nessa feels certain Deena’s abusive ex, Lucas Chevalier, is responsible—particularly when he uses Deena’s absence to gain custody of the couple’s four-year-old daughter, Ruby—but Lucas’s mother alibis him. He then convinces a judge to deny Nessa visitation rights to see Ruby and decamps with the girl to Vermont. Nessa refuses to move on, however, obsessing over her sister and niece’s fates; meanwhile, as Ruby grows up exploring Lake Champlain’s islands, she learns to hunt, farm, and manage her father’s temper. She knows not to ask about her “messed up” mother, whom Lucas says abandoned them when Ruby was two, but when someone mails her a picture contradicting that timeline, she starts questioning her father’s motives. Mannion expertly intertwines Nessa and Ruby’s stories via visceral, close-third-person narration that alternates perspectives, and weaves through time to build tension and dole out reveals. Her subtly shaded characters add nuance and poignancy. This artful slow burn should earn Mannion new fans. (Aug.)