Tuesday, May 19, 2020

This is How I Lied

  This Is How I Lied
Publication Information:  Park Row. 2020. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0778388115 / 978-0778388111

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Eve wasn't even supposed to be in these caves."

Favorite Quote:  "DNA doesn't lie."

On a cold night in 1995, Eve dies. She is murdered. Her body is found in a cave. Fifteen years later, her murder remains unsolved.

The setting for this book is amazing, and one I was not familiar with. The town is fictional but based around an Iowa state park famous for its labyrinth of caves. Geologically, the limestone caves and the bluffs date back thousands of years. The most abundant residents of the caves are bats. In the fictional town of Grotto, the bluff and the caves are a part of life - a place to be alone, a place to explore, and at time a place to be afraid of.

The cast of characters is a small one. Eve is the victim. Nola is her eccentric, somewhat unbalanced sister. Charlotte is her mother. Nick was the boyfriend. The Harper family is a family with young children who often need babysitting. Maggie is the best friend. She is now grown up, married, and pregnant. She is also a police officer.

Eve's case is cold. Maggie and Nola found the body. Maggie's father was the police chief at the time and conducted the investigation. The boyfriend was blamed. The sister was blamed. A random drifter was blamed. However, no one was ever formally accused or convicted.

Now, new evidence has been found. Eve's boot is found in the caves. Maggie takes on the investigation. The hope is the with the evolution of technology, DNA evidence can be found, and Eve's killer can be brought to justice. It is difficult to believe that an officer who was close to the victim and found the body would be put in charge of the investigation. However, this is fiction. So, suspend disbelief and read on.

The story shifts between the past and the present - the days leading up to Eve's murder and Maggie's  current investigation. Many disturbing details emerge. Trigger warning:  This book contains mutilation of animals, abuse in a relationship, rape, and pedophilia. It is disturbing!

Given the small cast of characters, the book keep me engaged as to who the killer will turn out to be. Interestingly, a revelation by one character comes so early in the book that I know that is not the eventual outcome simply because there is too much of the book still remaining. So, that eliminates one suspect to some extent, but it does make me wonder what the story there is.

The final identity of the killer is not really a surprise, but the ending is dramatic without centering on the killer. The drama is more about women, the traumas they have survived, and the scars they will carry for a lifetime.

For me, the book is as much about the mystery of Eve's murder as it is about her sister Nola's mental illness. There is a progression of disturbing collections and incidents. Yet, it seems that Nola is given no guidance or help. She is left, for most of her life, to flounder on her own. Where are the adults in her life? The whole issue of pedophilia and abuse also raises the same question. At the time of Eve's murder, where are the adults in the lives of these three young women? I do wish that aspect of the story and with that the characters themselves had been more developed. Nevertheless, the book keeps me reading until the end to see where it goes.

This is How I Lied
Blog Tour

Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher:  Park Row Books

Author Bio:
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.
Book Summary:
With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little... off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

Author Q&A:

1. What is your writing process like?
I approach each of my novels with the goal of being a plotter – someone who explicitly organizes and outlines her books – but it never quite works out that way for me. I make notes and outline the plot but ultimately the characters take over and do what they want to anyway. My process is messy and meandering. Thankfully, I have a brilliant editor who is able to see through the weeds and pull out the best parts of my plots and keep me on the right path. This is How I Lied completely evolved from my initial intentions. The characters changed, the plot shifted and the final ending poked its head up near the end of revisions and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

2. Which came first: the characters or plot line?
For me, the two go hand in hand. The basic plot line comes first, and close behind comes the characters. It doesn’t matter how suspenseful of a plot I develop, if the right characters aren’t there to mold the story and carry it forward, it won’t work. Before I begin writing, I attempt to give my characters rich backstories. Often many of these details don’t make into the novel, but by fully developing their personalities and biographies, it helps keep me in tune with them as I write. Knowing the characters’ likes and dislikes, their foibles and strengths helps me to honestly and accurately determine their motivations and the decisions they make as they move through the novel.

3. How do you come up with your plots?
I’m a news junkie! I’ll scan newspapers and websites and a story will catch my eye. It can be the smallest detail or a broader theme but if the idea sticks with me and keeps harassing me to write about it, I know I’m on the right track. For my novel Little Mercies, it was an article about a social worker who ended up on the other side of the justice system because of alleged negligence with her caseload. From this I created an entirely new story about a social worker who was fighting for her own child. In This is How I Lied, I was intrigued by news stories that dealt with the use of familial DNA to solve cold cases and it became a key detail in the novel’s resolution.

4. Do you use music to help set a mood/tone for your books?
I do listen to music as I write. It varies based on the story and what I think the characters might listen to. By curating these playsets, it helps me get into their mindset. As I worked on Maggie’s sections in This is How I Lied I listened to a lot of Avett Brothers and Lumineers. For Nola, I listened to classical music and hard rock – she’s an interesting mix. As for Eve, since she was sixteen years old and living in the 90s, I listened to plenty of Nirvana and Beck.

5. Where did the idea for this story come from?
Before I started writing This is How I Lied, I read I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, about the author’s investigation of The Golden State Killer who, for decades, terrorized northern California. This book both terrified and fascinated me and I became intrigued by how modern technology was being used to close old cold cases. For my project, I thought it would be interesting to explore how this might play out in a small town where the perpetrator thought the truth behind the crime would never be discovered. As I was writing the novel, I learned about the developments in a 40-year-old cold case not far from where I live where familial DNA was used to ultimately convict the killer. Amazing!

6. Do you find inspiration for your novels in your personal life?
I often get asked what my childhood must have been like because of the twisty thrillers I write. Thankfully, I can say that I had a blissfully uneventful childhood with parents and siblings that loved and supported me. For me, the inspiration from my own life comes in the settings of my novels – the Mississippi River, farmland, the woods and bluffs – all found in Iowa. In This is How I Lied, the town of Grotto is loosely based on a nearby town until I moved to this part of Iowa, I never realized that we had cave systems. Visitors to the state park, can literally step back thousands of years. The limestone caves and bluffs are beautiful, haunting and have something for everyone. You can take a casual stroll through some of the caves and have to army crawl through some of the others. Old clothes and a flashlight are a must! The caves made the perfect backdrop for a thriller and I was excited to include them in This is How I Lied.

7. What is the one personality trait that you like your main characters to have and why?
In looking back at all my main characters, though they are all different ages and come from different walks of life, I think the trait that they all seem to have in common is perseverance. I’ve had characters battle human evil and demons of their own creation but it doesn’t matter what traumatic events they have been through or the challenges they will face, they manage to make it through. Changed for sure, but intact and hopeful for the future.

8. Why do you love Maggie and why should readers root for her?
I do love Maggie! As a police detective, Maggie has dedicated her adult life to helping others and is a loving daughter, sister and wife and is expecting her first child. This doesn’t mean that Maggie is perfect. Like all of my protagonists, Maggie is complicated and flawed and has made some big mistakes, but ultimately she is doing the best that she can.

9. What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
As a former elementary school teacher, I had absolutely no insights into the publishing world beyond what I saw on television and in movies – which portrayed it as a dog-eat-dog world. I have to admit, as a new author, I was very intimidated. But to my delight - and relief - the people I’ve encountered along the way– my agent, editors, publishing teams, fellow authors, booksellers and readers – all have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and kind.

10. What is coming up next for you?
I just finished the first draft of my next novel, a locked-room mystery about a reclusive writer working on a true crime book when a snow storm leaves her trapped inside her remote home, setting off a series of events that lead to a stunning revelation. It was so much fun to write!

11. Has quarantine been better or worse for your writing?
It’s been such a scary, unsettling time but I’ve found writing a nice distraction and a great comfort during this extended time at home. I’ve been able to turn off the news and get lost in my manuscript or other writing projects. It’s a lot like reading – a much needed escape from the real world.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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