Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Park Row
First Published: May 30, 2017
Genres: Mental Health Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she ends up losing everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush near her cabin, she is plunged into a mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.
As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?
Before I begin this review, let me start by saying that service dogs are awesome. Dogs, in general, are awesome but this book is a prime example of why service dogs are absolutely amazing and deserve all of the love and praise for all that they do.
The story follows Amelia, a former ER nurse that becomes deaf after a horrible accident and is struggling to get her life back together. I appreciated how delicately the subjects of disability, depression, and alcoholism are handled in this book. Amelia is both a sympathetic character and an admirable one, actively learning how to carry on and create a new life for herself after the loss of her hearing. She’s strong-willed, persistent, and resourceful. Her deafness is a part of who she is, but she is not defined by it.
This book was incredibly informative both about the impact that deafness can have on a person’s everyday functionality, but also the multitude of tools and resources available to help. I learned quite a lot about the services available for the hearing impaired and thought it was great how well researched the topic is. It wasn’t until after I finished reading that I learned that the author herself is hearing impaired and draws from her own experiences to depict Amelia’s journey.
Having read a few of Gudenkauf’s books I can’t help but notice a pattern in her stories that bothers me. In every one of her books that I’ve read the main character always has some connection to law enforcement that gets her “in” an investigation, even though she really shouldn’t see or know any of this information legally. Even worse, the main character always ends up interfering in an investigation by giving the police false leads. I don’t mind following an amateur sleuth that makes mistakes in their investigation but it starts to feel repetitive with these characters suspecting everyone of everything.
It’s a very obvious attempt at adding some red herrings to the story to keep the mystery going but it becomes very noticeable once you’re acquainted with the author’s writing style. It is because of this that the story becomes a little predictable and the culprit can be guessed almost as soon as they are introduced. It seems that Gudenkauf may have noticed this, at least, as the character is reprimanded for her meddling and I appreciated this.
Despite my issues with Gudenkauf’s main characters, the story kept me interested in finding out the how and the why rather than the who. Gudenkauf has a way of immersing the reader into the story and the characters and it is something that I admire about her work. Her skill with pacing is perfect despite the dangerous interference that is present in many of her books. It is because of these two factors that make her books so hit or miss with me.
This book was a definite hit and I’m so glad that I took a chance on it. It’s rare to find good disability representation and so I was happy that I found this book. I love the commentary that this book has about the importance of trust and empathy in the health industry, a topic that I wish was addressed more often. Even with the mild plot issues, it’s a worthwhile read for the intense mystery and wonderful cast of characters, especially Amelia and Stitch.
“But the thing is when you are sick or think you are sick, you trust your caregivers, your nurses, and doctors. You have to.”
Trigger Warning: Violence