A severed hand washes ashore along Palm Beach on May 9, 2020. Its presence, found at the start of Covid when no one should have been on the beach, is established at the start of this multi-layered book. But the significance of this gruesome discovery remains unclear for a while. When 12-year-old Noelle Huber was murdered in Pittsburgh in 1948, her death not only impacted her young friend Liz but also became an obsession of Liz's grown daughter, a writer of mystery books. Referred to as "The Writer," until we eventually learn her name, she lives a solitary life in Palm Beach and is clearly a troubled woman deeply affected by the murder. While it remains an unsolved case, Noelle's older brother had long been the prime suspect even though he was never formally charged with the crime. Also living in Palm Beach is Linda Alonso, a mother with two young children. Her life is shattered when husband Miguel and their children disappear with indications that they have left the country for his native Argentina. As an American citizen Linda is unable to travel to find them given new travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic. The lives of the "writer" and the "wife" cleverly come together in this intelligent mystery which grapples with generational trauma, truth and lies, the observations of a writer, and life during the pandemic.
As well-written and engaging as Deborah Goodrich Royce’s Reef Road is, I'd file this slow burn murder mystery under "Not for Everyone." The book takes its time to come together and the characters, overall, are not appealing. You need to sort through the plot-driven narrative of "The Wife" and the ramblings of "The Writer" which is often at a slow pace. You're either going to like and appreciate the writer's style or you won't. I enjoyed it overall - especially when the action, the tension and unexpected twists picked up. Living a short drive south of Palm Beach, I especially enjoyed the local references. I also appreciated Royce's mentions of those she refers to as "citizen detectives" such as the late, talented Michelle McNamara. It's worth checking out.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Mystery | General Fiction.
Publication Date: January 10, 2023.
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