A cold case for a cold day

     Title: Arrowood
     Author: Laura McHugh
     Publication Year: 2016
     Pages: 270
     Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
     Date Started: Dec. 26, 2016
     Date Finished: Jan. 8, 2017
     Format: Kindle
     Beverage of choice: Coffee. Dark and bitter

I can’t exactly remember how I stumbled across this book, though if memory serves me well it involved a late night scavenger hunt on Goodreads where I followed a thread of “If you liked this…” Regardless of the fact, I found Arrowood.

Arrowood encompasses the realm of gothic mystery. In the novel, Arden Arrowood inherits the family home, the house where she spent her childhood. At least it was, until her twin sisters went missing and her world ripped apart. Now grown, Arden is nearing completion of her master’s degree but struggles to bring herself to finish it. Her thesis revolves around the feeling of nostalgia, which echo through the pages. In fact, this entire book encapsulates the feelings and longing of nostalgia. Once Arden returns to Arrowood, she is haunted by the mystery surrounding her sisters and what really happened to them. She teams up with an investigative writer who sheds light on her memories, casting serious doubt on everything she remembers.

I read the majority of this book while at a conference in New Orleans, LA. And I’m so glad I did. Arrowood is set in a small town on the Mississippi River during the winter months. The setting just brings a chill to your bones! So reading the novel next to the mighty river in the middle of a cold snap felt far too perfect.

I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. It had a fairly slow pace, which I felt heightened the gothic-ness of the novel. This pacing fell apart at the end, however, as many reveals are made in rapid procession. Though I didn’t actually mind this swift change in pacing. To me it just seemed to fit the book.

The characters themselves are okay, not spectacular, but okay. I particularly connected with Arden simply due to the shared exertions of graduate student life. I felt her anxiety, I know that struggle. Beyond that, though, I’m not certain I would consider the characters deep or terribly developed. Arden explores love interests, though I never really got into any of them and luckily romance does not feature prominently. It was almost like everyone was emotionally and personally on hold in the book, like they froze after the disappearance of the twins. Perhaps this was done intentionally to heighten the nostalgia?

Without spoilers, I was able to solve much of the mystery myself, though the end still had many surprises, which I found welcome and refreshing. I felt satisfied with the ending, which I don’t feel all that often, especially with thriller and mystery novels.

What I loved most about this book was the writing. It was refreshing and had a very smooth rhythm to it, if that makes any sense. This is the second book that McHugh has written, and so I look forward to reading her original, debut novel.

Overall, 3.5/5 moose