cover image The Gulf

The Gulf

Rachel Cochran. Harper, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-328412-8

In Cochran’s triumphant debut, closeted 29-year-old bartender Louisa Ward gets tangled up in a murder investigation in 1970s Texas. After a devastating hurricane, Louisa considers leaving her tiny, religious hometown of Parson, Tex.—a move encouraged by her lover, Heather, who also lives in Parson. Before Louisa can make a final decision, however, her old schoolmate (and first love), Joanna Kerrigan, returns to Parson and dredges up a mystery from the recent past. Joanna hires Louisa to help repair the decrepit mansion owned by her recently deceased mother, Kate, with whom Louisa had formed a close bond in the years since the girls graduated from high school. Eight months earlier, Louisa found Kate’s body in the mansion’s garden, her head bashed in from what the police deemed an accidental fall during a rainstorm. Louisa doubted that conclusion at the time, and now decides to throw herself into investigating Kate’s death wholesale. Slowly, a thicket of small-town secrets come to light and make it crystal clear that the woman’s demise was no accident. Cochran perfectly paces her reveals, keeping readers guessing about who’s hiding secrets and why. Bolstered by true-to-life characterizations and superior prose, this character-driven Southern gothic will enthrall fans of Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone. (June)