Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Cemetery Girl

Summary: A missing child is every parent’s nightmare. What comes next is even worse in this riveting thriller from the bestselling and award-winning author of Bring Her Home.

Tom and Abby Stuart had everything: a perfect marriage, successful careers, and a beautiful twelve-year-old daughter, Caitlin. Then one day Caitlin vanished without a trace. For a while they grasped at every false hope and followed every empty lead, but the tragedy ended up changing their lives, overwhelming them with guilt and dread, and shattering their marriage.

Four years later, Caitlin is found alive but won’t discuss where she was or what happened. And when the police arrest a suspect connected to her disappearance, she refuses to testify. Taking matters into his own hands, Tom tries to uncover the truth—and finds that nothing that has happened yet can prepare him for what he is about to discover. -- Berkley

CEMETERY GIRL by David Bell has recently been re-released in paperback; and if you missed it the first time around, it's now available in a size that you can take with you anywhere. This novel is based on the rather uncomfortable situation of a child who goes missing and is presumed dead. As is often the case, the parents' marriage falls apart after the tragedy. But what happens when their daughter returns might even be worse!

Tom and Abby Stuart seemingly have it all until their 12 year old daughter Caitlin disappears while walking her dog near a cemetery. Both Tom and Abby are determined to find her, and for awhile, they both have the same goals. However, it's four years later and grief and guilt has gotten the best of them. Tom is still determined that Caitlin is out there, while Abby wants to put the past behind them and start a new life.

When they finally have a memorial service for Caitlin, the attention results in a new lead... one that gives Tom a great deal of hope. He decides to investigate for himself (because he doesn't feel like the police still believe she could be alive), and much to everyone's amazement, Caitlin is returned home to Tom and Abby. What's even more surprising is that Caitlin wants to go back to her abductor... she has fallen in love with him and wants nothing to do with her parents.

When the police finally get to the bottom of her abduction, they make an arrest; however, Caitlin refuses to talk about the past four years. Tom wants thing to be normal with his daughter, but he knows nothing will be right until he learns what happened to her. Tom sets out to learn the truth, putting himself and even Caitlin at risk; and what he learns is even worse than he ever could have imagined.

I enjoyed CEMETERY GIRL although "enjoy" is a strange word considering the subject matter. I have to be honest. This book was, at times, difficult to read; and what happened to Caitlin is every parent's worst nightmare. Even when it seemed like the book was going to go there, I still couldn't believe it. It was a horrific story that some readers, namely parents, might not be able to tolerate.

Having said that, I do think CEMETERY GIRL is a worthwhile read. It was a special look at the destruction of a family in the aftermath of a tragedy as well as the repercussions after it was seemingly over. The nightmare of Caitlin's return, both with discovering what she experienced as well as with her desire to return to her captor, was such a tragic story. But rest assured, there is a glimmer of hope that makes the subject matter and the story more redeeming!

I found the mystery aspect of CEMETERY GIRL to be quite good. Because Caitlin wasn't willing to talk, there was definitely the mystery of who took her and why. In addition, there were some questions surrounding the kidnapping and who (if anyone) might have helped her disappear. I do think the exploration of the family was actually a stronger part of the novel that the mystery, but the mystery was definitely intriguing.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was the exploration of Tom and Abby and how they each dealt with the tragedy of Caitlin's disappearance and subsequent return of her. Tom never gave up hope, but it ate him apart and basically destroyed every relationship in his life. He even acted almost irresponsibly in his quest to catch Caitlin's kidnapper. He was that obsessed.

Meanwhile, Abby turned away from her husband and towards her pastor at her church. She wanted to move on and Tom just couldn't understand her feelings... and she couldn't understand Tom's for that matter. I actually think both Tom and Abby were on the extremes for how they dealt with the tragedy, but I appreciated how they were portrayed. As a parent, there were times when I related to Tom and other times when I related more to Abby.

Because CEMETERY GIRL was such a unique exploration of grief and recovery, I do think it would make a good book club selection... especially if your group enjoys mysteries. There is a reading guide available with twelve questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include marriage, grief, faith, parent/child relationships, guilt, revenge, and love.

I am becoming quite the fan of David Bell, and I look forward to reading more of his books in the future. In fact, he has a new on coming out later in 2018 called SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER that sounds good! In the meantime, he has plenty of books to read including CEMETERY GIRL.

Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

That sounds gut wrenching but also like a page turner.

Kim@Time2Read said...

I know what you mean about the word 'enjoy' when applied to a book like this! I've read a couple like that recently.
The extremes grieving parents sounds a lot like the parents in a book I just read, Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. I'm working on my review of that one now!