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Crumbling Arrowood stands on the banks of the Mississippi River in a dying Iowa town. The grand old house has been in the Arrowood family for generations. The last Arrowoods to live there abandoned it after their twin daughters went missing. Everyone assumed that the toddlers had been kidnapped when their older sister, Arden, reported seeing their blond heads through the back window of a gold car speeding away from the curb. She has been haunted by that vision ever since, weighed down by a heavy load of guilt because her mother had put her in charge of watching the twins and she failed miserably.

Nearly 20 years have passed. Arden’s family left Arrowood not long after the abductions, unable to bear the reminder of that tragic day. She was moved from place to place, never putting down roots, making friends or letting herself get fully comfortable. Now, in her mid-20s, she learns that her grandfather has left the old house to her. On the verge of earning her master’s degree in history, Arden happily abandons the problems she’s facing with her thesis and moves back to Arrowood. She has always felt its magnetic draw. Maybe, by living within its walls, she can finally put to rest her questions about that awful day.

"All of the elements are there for a gripping mystery, and author Laura McHugh does a masterful job of using every one of them."

It turns out that Arden isn’t the only one with questions. Josh from the website Midwest Mysteries also is eager to find out what happened to the twins. He has long had a burning passion for cold cases and followed the Arrowood twins’ disappearance for years. Josh winnows his way into Arden’s life, ostensibly with the goal to help them both, but is he just a little too eager? His obsession might border on creepy. However, it could turn out to be good, for he makes Arden take a closer look at her memories. And he makes her begin to doubt. What did she really see those many years ago?

Arden desperately needs to remember. After all, she was just a child herself. And her mother had problems of her own, relying on pills and alcohol to get through the days. Arden’s father simply seemed to be absent a lot. What was he up to? Fortunately, young Arden had Ben, her good friend and next-door neighbor. But his mother sure was a piece of work --- at least in Arden’s childhood impressions. Now, coming back to her hometown, will the neighbors still be who she thought they were?

While Arden is trying to figure out who to trust and if this move will be the new beginning she had hoped for, she stumbles onto secrets she was never meant to discover. This small, dying town has covered up a host of them. And danger lurks in its history, the one thing Arden thought she could always turn to.

A creaky old house, a desperate town, old friends who may not be what they claim, new friends with questionable motives, mistrust around every corner. All of the elements are there for a gripping mystery, and author Laura McHugh does a masterful job of using every one of them. And more. You might find that you don’t know who to root for. And then you still get it wrong. Prepare to be surprised.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 12, 2016

by Laura McHugh