A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town.
In Heather Gudenhauf’s new thrilling novel, BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND (ParkRowBooks), twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, have a sleepover, at least it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.
Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.
BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.
We have an excerpt of BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND to share with you.
“Do you know if Cora is okay?” I ask Judy, who situates a metal cart with an arrangement of paper envelopes, jars in a variety of sizes, a large tweezer, a camera and several other items I can’t identify next to Violet’s bed.
“Cora?” Judy asks. I glance over at Violet to see if hearing her friend’s name brings any reaction. It doesn’t. “I don’t know who that is.”
“She’s the other girl who was brought here. She came in an ambulance,” I explain. “She looked like she was hurt pretty badly.”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that. Let’s just focus on Violet right now,” Judy says, holding up a small spatula-shaped tool. “See this, Violet? I’m going to use this to clean your fingernails, okay? It won’t hurt a bit.” I watch while Judy uses the spatula to scrape dried blood from beneath Violet’s fingernails and deposit it within one of the paper envelopes.
This is when I understand that this nurse isn’t just treating my daughter for shock or dehydration, she’s collecting evidence. This is why they bagged up Violet’s bloody clothing and cell phone. That’s what the camera is for and the thought of others seeing photos of my daughter, half-dressed and covered in her best friend’s blood, is too much.
My stomach lurches and I leap from the chair, unable to speak. I stagger out to the hallway in search of a bathroom. Probably from the look on my face, a woman pushing a cart of cleaning supplies points me in the right direction. I make it to the toilet just in time before I start heaving. The sour taste of the chicken marsala and wine Sam and I ate fills my throat.
Who could have done this? She’s nearly catatonic and they are poking and prodding her to gather evidence. I think again of Cora, somewhere in this hospital being treated for terrible injuries. I need to know what is going on and at the same time want to know nothing. I only want to take Violet home with me and try not to think about any of this.
I sit on the floor for a minute catching my breath before pushing myself up from my knees and flushing the toilet. I try to rinse the bitter taste from my mouth with water from the tap. I run my fingers through my hair and take several deep breaths before stepping back into the hallway. I’m still not ready to go back into Violet’s room. God, I’m such a coward.
Dr. Soto is standing outside Violet’s room talking with the officer who drove us to the hospital. Dr. Soto glances my way, his face grim. My first thought is that Violet must have taken a turn for the worse and I press my fingers against the wall to steady myself. The officer turns and I register the worry in his eyes, the tightness around his mouth. I will my legs to move me forward but I don’t want to hear what they are going to tell me. I have only been away for a few minutes. What possibly could have gone wrong?
Dr. Soto and the officer move toward me and for an instant I want to run. If they can’t catch me they won’t be able to give me the news. My thoughts travel to the darkest corners: collapsed lungs, a brain bleed, a ruptured spleen, internal injuries that might have gone undetected. I can’t catch my breath and as they draw closer I press myself more closely to the wall, trying to make myself smaller, trying to disappear.
“Ms. Crow,” the officer begins. My eyes are on Dr. Soto, who must recognize my terror and lays a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Violet’s fine,” he says.
I want to cry. I want to lash out at them for scaring me so badly. “What is it?” I ask, unable to keep the anger from my voice but instantly I’m sorry for it. “Is it Cora, then? Is she okay?”
Officer Grady ignores my question. “I really need to ask Violet a few questions,” he says. “We need to get as much information about what happened as possible.”
“I told him that he needed to talk with you first before speaking with her,” Dr. Soto says before excusing himself.
“I don’t know,” I hesitate. “She’s in shock. I don’t think she’s in any condition to talk to anyone. She tried to say something at the train yard but I couldn’t hear what it was. Maybe one of the other cops heard what she said.” Officer Grady shifts from foot to foot, runs a thumb across his lips but doesn’t say anything. “What?” I ask. “Do you know something? Did she say who did this?”
About Heather Gudenkauf
Heather Gudenkauf is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound. Heather lives in Iowa with her family.
Connect with Heather
We’ll have a review and giveaway Monday, May 6th. Have a great week!