Laura McHugh lives in Columbia, Missouri, with her husband and children. Her debut novel, The Weight of Blood, won both the 2015 International Thriller Writers award and a Silver Falchion award for best first novel, and was nominated for a Barry award, an Alex award, and a GoodReads Choice award. It was also named one of the best books of the year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star, and the Sunday Times (UK). Her last novel, Arrowood, is an Indie Next pick and a LibraryReads pick. Visit her website here.
Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.
Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.
Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.
"Superb and subtle psychological suspense, and a compelling mystery too ... I thought I knew who did it, but I was wrong - four times."—Lee Child
“This robust, old-fashioned gothic mystery has everything you’re looking for: a creepy old house, a tenant with a secret history, and even a few ghosts. Laura McHugh’s novel sits at the intersection of memory and history, astutely asking whether we carry the past or it carries us.”—Jodi Picoult
“An eloquently eerie tale.”—Booklist
“Poignant . . . lyrical.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A chilling, twisting tale of family, memory, and home . . . This engaging and thrilling tale about a young woman’s homecoming, the vagaries of memory, and the impact of tragedy on both a town and a family is a terrific choice for Laura Lippman and Sue Grafton readers.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A pitch-perfect example of Southern Gothic”—The Times
“Magical second novel from the talented McHugh.”—Daily Mail
Rights: Spiegel & Grau, North America; Uitgeverij Cargo / De Bezige Bij, Netherlands; Limes, Germany
THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (2014)
The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’smother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.
The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.
“With her riveting debut . . . Laura McHugh makes a strong bid at cementing a new tradition of regional crime fiction while keeping tourism low in the Ozarks.”—The LA Times
“Laura McHugh’s . . . conjures a menacingly beautiful Ozark setting and a nest of poisonous family secrets reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.”—Vogue (“Spring’s Ten Best Suspense Novels”)
“[An] expertly crafted thriller.”—Entertainment Weekly, “The Must List
“Laura McHugh's suspenseful debut thriller combines taut pacing, sympathetic characters and wonderfully spooky atmosphere.” – Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Laura McHugh’s vivid and enthralling The Weight of Blood centers on a mother and daughter in a seemingly benign yet deeply horrifying small town. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers
Rights: Spiegel and Grau, North America; Hutchinson/Arrow, UK (two book deal); Rizzoli, Italy; Limes Verlag, Germany; Uitgeverij Cargo/De Bezige Bij, Netherlands (two book deal); AST, Russia; Calmann-Levy, France
DOWN TO DUST (IN DEVELOPMENT)
No one dreams of growing up to investigate gruesome accidents for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Certainly not Sadie Keller, who wound up at OSHA’s Kansas City branch after her other dreams (going to medical school; avoiding marriage and motherhood for as long as possible; leaving the state of Missouri) fell apart. Sadie is still reeling from a personal tragedy—the unexplained death of her own brother—when she’s sent to investigate a grain elevator explosion in the rural farming community of Blackwater.
Five employees of the grain company are dead, two are missing, and the one witness who might be able to tell Sadie what happened—the owner’s son—is badly burned and may not survive. The mother of one of the missing men is convinced that the explosion was no accident, and when a body found in the rubble doesn’t belong to either of the missing workers, Sadie realizes there is much more to the story. Who is the unidentified victim and what is her connection to the accident? Did she die in the explosion—or was she already dead? Sadie delves into the dark corners of this close-knit community looking for answers, but not everyone in town wants the truth to come out, and someone will do whatever it takes to keep Sadie from bringing it to light.