Hey mersquad coven! I’m back with another blog tour for Harlequin Trade Publishing, and thank you so very much for having me. I also had the opportunity to interview Heather Gudenkauf so let’s see how those questions went, shall we?
With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.
Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.
Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve.
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing, Netgalley, and Park Row Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
Thrillers always make me think about what would happen if I were in the main character’s situation, and how I would handle it. I don’t know if I could do it, if I’m honest. For starters, we have the set up of what happened in the past. Maggie found her best friend’s body in a cave near their home, and there was not enough evidence to find anyone guilty. To lost your best friend in such a terrible way, and then to find their body is traumatic in itself especially at the age of 16. Well, at any age really. It makes sense that Maggie would be suffering from PTSD or any other types of traumatic thoughts from that experience well into her adult years.
Then, not only is Maggie pregnant and a detective in their hometown of Grotto, Iowa, but new evidence has surfaced that ends up opening up the old case, which ends up opening up old wounds and feelings that Maggie worked to keep down during her time trying to heal, or at least trying to cope. Taking the time to look at the clues again, after all this time as passed and looking at them as an adult and a detective could be the difference between finding out who killed Eve and letting a killer continue to walk free after all these years.
This was definitely a book that I had to take my time reading because it was difficult for me to read because of the plot. For me, it was really difficult to see Maggie have to go back to a time where her best friend was killed, and have to find out that things may not have been as it was because of the secrets that were taking place during that time. Not to mention she was pregnant too and I felt like all of that stress that she had wasn’t good for her or the baby, but I personally wouldn’t know.
From other feedback that I’ve seen, Gudenkauf is a masterful thriller writer and this was a great introduction to her writing. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and was very visual for me. I think it was pretty intense at times as well, and not for the faint of heart.
What was the inspiration for this novel?
Before I started writing This is How I Lied, I read I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, about the author’s investigation of The Golden State Killer who, for decades, terrorized northern California. This book both terrified and fascinated me and I became intrigued by how modern technology was being used to close old cold cases. For my project, I thought it would be interesting to explore how this might play out in a small town where the perpetrator thought the truth behind the crime would never be discovered.
As I was writing the novel, I learned about the developments in a 40-year-old cold case not far from where I live where familial DNA was used to ultimately convict the killer. Amazing!
What is the one personality trait that you like your main characters to have and why?
In looking back at all my main characters, though they are all different ages and come from different walks of life, I think the trait that they all seem to have in common is perseverance. I’ve had characters battle human evil and demons of their own creation but it doesn’t matter what traumatic events they have been through or the challenges they will face, they manage to make it through. Changed for sure, but intact and hopeful for the future.
Do you find inspiration for your novels in your personal life?
I often get asked what my childhood must have been like because of the twisty thrillers I write. Thankfully, I can say that I had a blissfully uneventful childhood with parents and siblings that loved and supported me. For me, the inspiration from my own life comes in the settings of my novels – the Mississippi River, farmland, the woods and bluffs – all found in Iowa. In This is How I Lied, the town of Grotto is loosely based on a nearby town until I moved to this part of Iowa, I never realized that we had cave systems. Visitors to the state park, can literally step back thousands of years. The limestone caves and bluffs are beautiful, haunting and have something for everyone. You can take a casual stroll through some of the caves and have to army crawl through some of the others. Old clothes and a flashlight are a must! The caves made the perfect backdrop for a thriller and I was excited to include them in This is How I Lied.
How do you come up with your plots?
I’m a news junkie! I’ll scan newspapers and websites and a story will catch my eye. It can be the smallest detail or a broader theme but if the idea sticks with me and keeps harassing me to write about it, I know I’m on the right track. For my novel Little Mercies, it was an article about a social worker who ended up on the other side of the justice system because of alleged negligence with her caseload. From this I created an entirely new story about a social worker who was fighting for her own child. In This is How I Lied, I was intrigued by news stories that dealt with the use of familial DNA to solve cold cases and it became a key detail in the novel’s resolution.
What is coming up next for you?
I just finished the first draft of my next novel, a locked-room mystery about a reclusive writer working on a true crime book when a snow storm leaves her trapped inside her remote home, setting off a series of events that lead to a stunning revelation. It was so much fun to write!
And there you have it friends! I appreciate you all being here and supporting me in my journey. Have you read this one? What kind of thrillers are on your recommendation list? Let me know!