Publisher: Minotaur Books
Secrets and lies can’t stay buried forever in Cedar Valley.
In the summer, hikers and campers pack the small Colorado town’s meadows and fields. And in the winter, skiers and snowboarders take over the mountains. Season by season, year after year, time passes and the lies, like the aspens and evergreens that surround the town, take root and spread deep.
Now, someone has uncovered the lies, and it is his murder that continues a chain of events that began almost forty years ago. Detective Gemma Monroe’s investigation takes her from the seedy grounds of a traveling circus to the powerful homes of those who would control Cedar Valley’s future.
Six-months pregnant, with a partner she can’t trust and colleagues who know more than they’re saying, Gemma tracks a killer who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets buried.
This is the second really good mystery debut that I’ve read this week, I would say I’m on quite a roll! When Chelsea at The Suspense Is Thrilling Me talked of a similar feel to a Karin Slaughter book in her review of this one, I was intrigued. I can definitely see why she felt this way as I could feel a similar vibe, there just wasn’t quite as much violence and gore here. I felt the need to mention this straightaway as I know I have some readers who don’t like that type of stuff and I think this one would be a better fit than some of the darker books I read. (You guys just aren’t as sick and twisted as me! 😜) Keep in mind though that there is still some violence and descriptive scenes, and there are definitely some very chilling moments.
Gemma is a heavily pregnant detective from Cedar Valley, Colorado. I loved this setting, I know firsthand how gorgeous Colorado is and if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting there, this book will give you a taste of what it’s like. Cedar Valley is a small town, with plenty of small town politics at play. They only have three unsolved murders in their history and both happened in the summer of 1985. A woman was murdered and two young, local cousins vanished without a trace. Gemma is haunted by these cold cases, especially the disappearance of the the McKenzie boys. She’s been tormented on and off by nightmares about them, and when a man who works for the circus that stops by town is murdered, her nightmares return with a vengeance.
There was a nice little twist very early on that pleased me and set the tone for the entire story. This wasn’t the type of book that continuously revealed gut punching plot twists, however it did have its fair share of surprises that kept me absorbed. It was well paced and heavily focused on police procedures which continues to fascinate me. Gemma was a very appealing and strong protagonist, and she had enough interesting quirks (her voracious and hearty appetite was my favorite, I can relate to a pregnant woman’s love affair with food) and things going on in her personal life that makes me think she could carry a series easily. Besides Gemma, there was also a strong cast of supporting characters within the department and the town of Cedar Valley.
This was a solid debut and Littlejohn has a sharp and clever writing style. I’m really curious to see where she takes this series and I’m invested in Gemma’s life, both personally and professionally. This is an absolutely perfect fall read and I have a feeling it will be popping up on many fall must read lists.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to Minotaur Books for my review copy.