Walking Through Needles

Heather Levy. Polis, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-951709-38-9

In 2009, 31-year-old Samantha Mayfair, the protagonist of Levy’s solid if distressing debut, has a responsible job and a home in a pleasant Oklahoma City neighborhood. Then her stepbrother, Eric Walker, whom she hasn’t seen in years, walks into the bank where she works. Traumatic memories of her stepfather, Isaac Walker, and the events leading up to his disappearance in 1994 come flooding back. She later learns from police detective Chad Eastman that Isaac’s body has recently been found buried near her childhood home. Eastman says he’s pegged Eric as the killer, but Samantha vows to prove her stepbrother innocent. That every person connected to Isaac has shameful secrets they would prefer to keep hidden and valid motives for killing him hampers the police investigation. Carefully calibrated flashbacks to 1994 reveal some disturbing family relationships. Clean prose is a plus, but readers should be prepared for masochism, incest, and sexual abuse of more than one minor. This won’t be to the taste of every mystery fan. Agent: Sandy Lu, Book Wyrm Literary. (June)