cover image Safe and Sound

Safe and Sound

Laura McHugh. Random House, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-44885-4

McHugh’s standout latest (after The Weight of Blood) centers on the disappearance of teenager Grace Crow, who vanished from her small hometown of Beaumont, Mo., while babysitting her cousins, Amelia and Kylee, leaving behind only a pool of blood. Six years later, Amelia is waitressing at the local Waffle House and encouraging the younger Kylee to finish high school so they can leave Beaumont and avoid the fates of their aunt, who punches a clock at the meatpacking plant, and mother, who works as a stripper. Amelia has never gotten over Grace’s disappearance, and often wonders if Alan, her seedy manager at the Waffle House (where Grace also worked), might have had something to do with it. When an unidentified young woman’s remains turn up near the county line, Amelia and Kylee ramp up their sleuthing efforts, adding Grace’s boyfriend, Levi, to their list of suspects. As they get closer to the truth, the sisters come to fear that whoever made Grace disappear won’t hesitate to do the same to them. McHugh seamlessly combines eerie mystery with gritty social realism, grounding the story’s hair-raising jolts in the emotional realities of her three-dimensional characters. Readers won’t be able to put this down. Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Union Literary. (Apr.)