Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault
I love picking up books with an interesting back-page blurb, and then being pleasantly surprised at what an excellent book it ends up being. Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault is most definitely one of those books.
Gretchen Waters, known for her memoir, Tammyland (which tells of her divorce and her love for some of country music’s finest women, like Tammy Wynette), dies after falling down the steps outside a library where she was doing a reading. Some think it was an accident, but others suspect foul play, more than likely a mugging gone wrong. Before she died, Gretchen was in the middle of her next book, which is to be a companion piece for Tammyland, this time focusing on classic male country singers.
Jamie Madden, Gretchen’s best friend from college, has been asked to act as her literary executor. While researching the manuscripts Gretchen left behind, both typed and hand written, Jamie realizes the book isn’t exactly what everyone thought it was going to be. Gretchen seems to be trying to solve the murder of her mother from 1985, but it then seems to segue into finding out her birth father’s identity.
While sorting through the notebooks and talking to Gretchen’s sources, Jamie begins to question whether Gretchen’s death has anything to do with finding the answer to one or both of those big mysteries.
Arsenault has written an amazing novel. Not only did she craft a central mystery that is riveting, and keeps you guessing until the climax, but she’s created realistic characters. Even those who spend the entire novel deceased, like Gretchen and her mother, Shelley, are fully realized and you end the book satisfied on all accounts.
Additionally, Arsenault weaves sections of Tammyland in with the novel. These aren’t just randomly added chapters; the placement is relevant to the current plot, and helps advance the story. Essentially Arsenault has written two books in one: the present-day mystery and Gretchen’s memoir/country music journey. No doubt she did an abundant amount of research for the Tammyland portions, as the lives of Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton are accurate and captivating.
I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Me When I’m Gone, and recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written, stand-alone mystery. Her previous novels, The Broken Teaglass and In Search of the Rose Notes, were critically acclaimed, including the Wall Street Journal naming In Search of the Rose Notes one of the ten best mysteries in 2011. No doubt Miss Me When I’m Gone will receive the same level of acclaim, so add it to your shelves now.
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