cover image The Night Flowers

The Night Flowers

Sara Herchenroether. Tin House, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-953534-86-6

In Herchenroether’s poignant debut, research librarian Laura MacDonald is perusing a crime website while awaiting a double mastectomy in a Connecticut hospital when a post catches her eye: in 1983, hikers lost in Sierra County, N.Mex., found barrels containing the skeletons of a woman and two girls. Thirty years later, the victims remain unidentified, so Laura decides to use her professional skills to investigate. Meanwhile, despite pressure from her husband to retire and help the couple’s single daughter raise her child, Det. Sgt. Jean Martinez has reopened the Sierra County Sheriff’s Department’s case file on the same hikers, hoping recent media coverage triggered by the discovery’s anniversary will turn up a lead. As the women’s investigations converge, Jane Doe’s ghost worries that if her killer is caught, she’ll only be remembered for how she died. Nuanced characters and artful prose complement the intricately crafted mystery, but what distinguishes Herchenroether’s tale is her visceral, resonant recounting of Laura’s cancer experience: Laura “had no voice. No identity outside her diagnosis.” This author is off to a strong start. Agent: Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Courage Literary. (May)