Oct 242013

portes-burythisPublishers Weekly: A new effort to close an unsolved murder case reopens old wounds in this enigmatic novel from the author of Hick and Anatomy of a Misfit. In Muskegon, Mich., 25 years have passed since a hapless snowplow operator discovered 22-year-old Elizabeth Krause’s body off Route 31. The homicide investigation, overseen by then-rookie detective Samuel Barnett, lies dormant for decades, until a documentary made by local college students renews interest in the case. Barnett gets back in touch with Beth’s friends and family, including her stoically resigned parents, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles and Dorothy Krause, and her pitiable best friend, Shauna Boggs. With their help, Barnett hopes to put to rest a murder that has haunted the small town for too long. Portes’s short chapters and staccato narration make for a quick and compulsive read. She is also adept at exploring her characters’ insecurities: Barnett’s fears that he has botched the case, Shauna’s envy of her virtuous best friend, and ever-innocent Beth’s longing to experience more in life. As a whodunit, the novel is somewhat lackluster, but as a study in human nature, it’s a triumph. In Muskegon, and perhaps in life, the guilty aren’t the only ones with secrets to keep.