"The Body Among The Pines," a heart-pounding thriller and suspense novel by author Esther P. Goodwin, introduces Kacy Roe, a successful YouTuber who's obsession with abandoned places takes her on an emotional journey that she will never forget.
Kacy Roe's life consists of two things: being in front of a camera and trespassing. As a YouTube sensation, she shows the world what it's like to remember the places that were left behind. However, she never dared to revisit the place she left right after graduating high school--her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She had made a vow years ago, after the unfortunate death of her mother, that she'd never return.
Then one morning Kacy’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous phone call, informing her of her estranged father's heart attack. Though hesitant to revisit the past, she rushes back to her hometown of Oklahoma, hoping to find him well. After getting him home, she embarks on another exploration to create more content for her channel. But things take an unexpected turn when she stumbles upon a dead body at the infamous Camp Mercy, an abandoned summer camp, just a stone's throw away from her childhood home.
With the police now involved, Kacy runs into an old flame, the detective on the case, adding a layer of complicated emotions to an already tense situation. She swore she'd never return, however, now she needs to make a decision. Not wanting to have returned home in the first place, Kacy weighs her family values and lost love over wanting to solve a murder in hopes to break the internet, even if it means putting herself in harm's way. Will she be able to solve the case before it's too late? And will she finally confront her past and embrace her future?
"The Body Among The Pines" is a gripping and emotional thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
Goodwin keeps the action moving at a fast pace and achieves a nice balance between the characters' personal lives and an agreeably twisty mystery, making sure the multiple threads are neatly braided together. She has given the book an interesting structure: Kacy and Robert take turns narrating the story, with occasional third-person descriptions, providing deep insights into the cast, though the storytelling requires readers to pay close attention. Multiple viewpoints of the same incidents can at times be a challenge to track, but Goodwin keeps the story lean and the emotions resonant.
Although Goodwin's writing is spare, she doesn’t stint on character development. Scenes between Kacy and her father ring true, as they tentatively try to establish a new relationship in the wake of tragedy. Especially good is the romance between Kacy and Robert, and the dual narration sets readers up to experience their growing passion organically. Goodwin is equally at home with the violent scenes set in rural Oklahoma as well as a series of moving interviews with a stroke victim whose memories are integral to the investigation. Goodwin closes the book with an exciting and cathartic wind-up, leaving readers hoping for a future Kacy and Robert adventure.
Takeaway: Twisty mystery finds a YouTube star investigating a Tulsa killing.
Comparable Titles: Mario Giordano’s Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, Joshilyn Jackson’s Never Have I Ever.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+