Weekend Read by Claudine Wolk: "The Night Flowers" is a debut novel by Sara Herchenroether
Claudine Wolk is an author, podcast host, and book marketing consultant. Find her writing at claudinewolk.substack.com.
The newly released thriller novel, The Night Flowers, is Sara Herchenroether’s debut novel. Critics have raved that it is a book “you won’t be able to put down.” The critics are correct – states Wolk
In 1983, three bodies, that of a woman and two young girls, were found in New Mexico’s Gila’s National Forest. Their murders remained unsolved. At the start of the novel, thirty years have gone by since the gruesome discovery of the bodies. Detective Jean Martinez is assigned to the cold case and determined to identify the bodies even as her husband is constantly pressuring her to retire from the police force. At the same time, an amateur sleuth, Laura MacDonald, who searches for missing persons as a hobby, needs a distraction from her post-surgery breast cancer treatments and fixates on the same cold case, recently mentioned in the news due to its 30-year anniversary. As if the characters of Detective Martinez and Laura MacDonald were not interesting enough, the author introduces a third protagonist in the novel. The unidentified victim’s spirit, the Jane Doe, creatively and eerily tells her story, revealing the backstory of her murder and the murder of the children found with her.
The Night Flowers is an easily readable, true crime procedural told by three intertwined protagonist’s narration. The first two characters we meet, Detective Jean Martinez and Laura MacDonald, are immensely likable. The way the author integrates the sometimes very physical presence of the spirit of “Jane Doe” is clever and fascinating. Although a ghost, Jane Doe is not scary at all but introspective, heart-breaking and creative.
People tend to think of us as shadows, blurred black mist. Often, it’s ‘out of the corner of my eye.’ People sense the cold.
Who among us hasn’t had that feeling of a presence, walked into a cold spot or had a twinge of Deja vu? Could it be a spirit trying to communicate with us? You bet. The way Herchenroether weaves this phenomenon into the story is clever and effective.
The relationship between Detective Martinez and Laura MacDonald is effective and entertaining. The reader can’t wait for the duo to work together to solve this crime. The combination of good old fashioned detective work and internet sleuth boards combined with genealogical studies was fun to read.
Herchenroether succeeds in a fabulous debut with The Night Flowers. It is an immensely readable true crime mystery told by two committed women professionals who come together for their own personal reasons with their own special skills to name an unidentified victim and find her killer. The added element of the spirit of “Jane Doe” takes the story-telling to a whole new and multi-layered level. I ripped through it and loved it. I hope Herchenroether writes another novel starring the two “live” characters.
Title: The Night Flowers
Author: Sara Herchenroether
Pub Date: May 2023
Publisher: Tin House Books
Page Count: 320 pp