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Sarah Beauchemin
Final Belongings
Juliet and Henry never met. Yet their lives resonate across generations when Juliet finds a photo with an urgent message in her uncle Henry’s final belongings. As Juliet follows the trail to Italy, she uncovers a haunting truth that pushes her into the line of danger. Will unraveling Henry’s hidden past put Juliet’s own future at risk?
Beauchemin’s singular, emotionally charged literary thriller centers on a contemporary woman named Juliet, mired in misery after her divorce from a philandering husband, and her Uncle Henry a generation earlier. Juliet is further burdened by the unexpected loss of her mother. As she goes through her mother’s house she discovers the remaining possessions of her Uncle Henry, a man she never knew who died decades earlier in Italy. What he left behind convinces Juliet that his death may not have been an accident, leading her abroad to unravel the mystery of Henry’s last days in Europe. The clues are frustratingly hard to unravel, and eyewitnesses are unreliable or unhelpful, forcing her to rely on new friend Alessio and any leads she can get to expose the truth. When her room is ransacked at the local B&B where she is staying, she realizes that she’s onto something. But there’s someone close by that wants the past to stay in the past.

Beauchemin’s genre-bending blend of historical fiction, mystery, traumatic character study, and dramatic search for identity will keep readers engaged both with the story’s unexpected twists and also the hearts of the protagonists, which Beauchemin lays bare in crisp, sometimes lyric prose. Henry never fit in with his family, and a devastating event that splinters him from them—and from his love of photography—leads him on a surprising journey that includes a high-profile friendship, an eye-opening stint as an activist in LA, and work as a journalist in the Vietnam War. For as many travesties as Henry encounters in his brief life, the one that kills him may be the one thing he never expected.

Final Belongings aims for the stars, offering a compelling 20th century mystery, complete with an unexpected historical figure, but also dramatizing two rich, engaging lives. The richness of the material does not diminish narrative momentum, as Final Belongings is well paced and well plotted.

Takeaway: This dual timeline mystery has a woman piecing together her uncle’s illustrious but brief life and death.

Great for fans of: Simone St. James’s The Sun Down Motel, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A