‘The Girls She Left Behind’ is a mystery not to be left behind

the girls she left behind - sarah graves
(Penguin Random House)

Sarah Graves (pen name of Mary Squibb) is the well-known author of the quirky, delightful Home Repair is Homicide mystery series. Having a “Tim the Toolman Taylor” for a spouse, I can well relate to the series title. Indeed, her books were partially inspired by her experiences restoring an old house in Eastport, Maine with her husband.

Disney Studios
Disney Studios

The Girls She Left Behind is book 2 of a new series featuring detective Lizzie Snow. Lizzie is a stylish, sophisticated big-city cop from Boston, who has relocated to remote town in Maine to track down leads related to a long-missing family member. Despite the rural setting, life is not exactly quiet for Lizzie, who is simultaneously dating a local veterinarian and trying to resolve a former relationship with a married man who lives nearby in Bangor.

Then a local teen aged girl, Tara Wylie goes missing. At first glance, it appears that she has taken off for a lark with her boyfriend, but as Snow digs deeper, she uncovers more and more oddities. When the girl’s mother gets a chilling text from her daughter pleading for help and a woman connected to a recently resolved serial kidnapping case turns up disoriented and trying to warn the police, Lizzie knows she has a serious crime to sort out. But can figure things out in time to save Tara, whose text message seems to indicate is still alive?

Graves is clearly an expert mystery writer and the plot contains plenty of unexpected tangles and complexities to keep fans of the genre well-entertained. The Lizzie Snow series shares the Maine setting but is several shades darker than the more light-hearted Home Repair series. Although The Girls She Left Behind is book 2 (Winter at the Door is book 1) the crime plot line stands alone. The interpersonal relations are continued, but are decipherable from book 2 alone despite their intricacies. The most compelling reason to read book 1 first would be to receive a better introduction to Snow as this book seemed to assume a pre-established bond between the reader and the main character.

The only aspect of the book that I found disconcerting was a stylistic tendency to interrupt the characters’ dialogue and conversations midstream with descriptions and observations. Often the characters even trail off in midsentence to perform some action or even to make a phone call and start another conversation entirely. Yes, this happens sometimes in reality, but the frequency with which it occurs in the book leaves one with the impression of highly distracted characters who lack focus and attention to detail. This I felt was at odds with a detective story.

Overall, though, the story was a very engrossing and rapid read. I look forward to the continuation of the Lizzie Snow series and hope it gets at least as many entries as the Home Repair set.

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

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