cover image Where the Truth Lies

Where the Truth Lies

Anna Bailey. Atria, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-982157-16-6

Debut novelist Bailey takes a familiar setup—a teenage girl mysteriously disappears during a party in the woods—and turns it into a suspenseful whodunit told in vivid, sensory prose. After 17-year-old Abigail Blake goes missing, Bailey lets the reader wonder who’s to blame. There’s Rat Lă custă , a Romanian immigrant who lives in a nearby trailer park; Hunter Maddox, host of the party; Hunter’s shifty father, Jerry; and a host of other locals. Alternating “Then” and “Now” sections build on Abgaili’s best friend Emma Alvarez’s search for the truth as she finds clues such as a shell casing and a tube of lip balm, and the townspeople’s secrets are slowly revealed. Bailey successfully renders character archetypes (hypocritical pastor, abusive veteran father, beaten wife, outcast immigrant) in three-dimensional nuance, and though she handles the suspense well, the delivery of the ultimate reveal, which comes via flashback, feels a bit disappointing, as if the author failed to find a way for the characters to solve the mystery. Still, the simmering tension keeps the pages turning in this slow burn of a story. (Aug.)