The Girls She Left Behind: A Novel by Sarah GravesThe Girls She Left Behind: A Novel by Sarah Graves

The Girls She Left Behind: A Novel

bySarah Graves

Hardcover | January 12, 2016

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Sure to thrill readers of Jenny Milchman, Linda Castillo, and Lisa Gardner, The Girls She Left Behind marks the return of ex–Boston homicide detective Lizzie Snow, the new sheriff’s deputy in Maine’s Great North Woods.

For Lizzie Snow, the ice and snow of her first punishing North Woods winter are dreadful enough. But near the small town of Bearkill a stubborn forest fire now rages out of control, and as embers swirl dangerously in the smoke-filled air, a teenage girl with a history of running away has dropped out of sight again. The locals and the law both think Tara Wylie is up to her old tricks—until her mother receives a terrifying text message.
 
Equally disturbing: Henry Gemerle—a kidnapper and rapist who once held three girls prisoner for fifteen years—has escaped, and may be lurking in Bearkill. As the fire closes in, Lizzie teams up with her boss, Sheriff Cody Chevrier, and state cop Dylan Hudson to search for the missing girl and the wily fugitive. But they’re blocked by Tara’s mother, a frustrating teller of needless lies and keeper of dark, incomprehensible secrets.
 
Following a trail of grisly clues—a bloodstained motel room, a makeshift coffin in a shallow grave—Lizzie is drawn ever closer to the flames in her race to save an innocent and corner a monster. Someone else also wants to find Tara Wylie and Henry Gemerle, though, for reasons that have nothing to do with mercy or justice. And when they all meet, the inferno threatening Bearkill will pale in comparison to the hell that’s about to break loose.

Praise for The Girls She Left Behind
 
“[Sarah] Graves writes at full strength when she’s focused on this economically depressed region, once the hub of a thriving lumber industry but now mostly the domain of meth cooks, unhappy teenagers and scores of volunteer firefighters battling tenacious blazes in the surrounding forest. . . . [A] rugged landscape with its down-to-earth characters.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
 
“Graves is firing on all cylinders. Lizzie Snow is a dynamic protagonist, just the right blend of capable and flawed. The fictional town of Bearkill is definitely coming into its own—the richness of the backdrop seems destined only to increase. And Graves has spent years demonstrating an ability to construct textured, nuanced mysteries. Put it all together and The Girls She Left Behind is another worthwhile entry in this series.”The Maine Edge

“Graves’s dark second Lizzie Snow mystery examines the ugly, soul-destroying things that mark the aftermath of a child abduction.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Insightful and twisted . . . an action-packed psychological thriller that readers cannot put down . . . This haunting novel is a must-read.”RT Book Reviews
 
“[A] tense and fast-paced tale of love gone horribly and fantastically wrong.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Well-observed and craftily orchestrated, The Girls She Left Behind is a solid entry in what is shaping up to be a strong Maine mystery series. Readers are likely to warm to Lizzie Snow and eagerly await her next appearance.”Portland Press-Herald
 
“An engrossing and rapid read . . . Graves is clearly an expert mystery writer and the plot contains plenty of unexpected tangles and complexities to keep fans of the genre well-entertained.”Pop Mythology
Sarah Graves lives with her husband in Eastport, Maine, one remote rural road away from the Allagash wilderness territory and the Great North Woods. She is the bestselling author of the Home Repair Is Homicide series, as well as two novels featuring Lizzie Snow.
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Title:The Girls She Left Behind: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.5 × 6.5 × 0.9 inPublished:January 12, 2016Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553390430

ISBN - 13:9780553390438

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Read from the Book

OneSleet needles lanced through the January night, gleaming slantwise in the headlights of the cars making their hesitant way along the street outside. Splattering against the big plate-­glass front window of Aroostook County sheriff’s deputy Lizzie Snow’s storefront office, the wet ice bits made a sound like tiny fists weakly hammering to get in.Just another fine evening in Bearkill, Maine, Lizzie thought glumly, peering through the streaming glass as Dylan Hudson’s familiar figure came striding into view. Galoshes splashing in the slush, the tall plainclothes detective’s shoulders hunched sharply under his topcoat and black-­and-­white-­striped scarf, ice-­melt trickling in a shining stream off the brim of his hat.At the sight of him she let the familiar lurch of feeling go through her, then set it firmly aside. Emotions were one thing but actions were entirely another, she told herself sternly.“Hi.” He swung in, shedding showers of icy droplets as he crossed the sparsely furnished office. Except for the half dozen wanted posters on the bulletin board and the police scanner on a shelf, the white-­painted walls and gray industrial carpet made the place look like an insurance agency’s not-­very-­successful branch office.Dylan deposited the large white paper shopping bag he carried on her desk. Delicious aromas floated from the bag.“Hi, yourself.” She should not have let him come, but the miserable night made his driving the ninety miles back to Bangor unwise even for a Maine state cop, and his promise of Thai food delivered to her office had sealed the deal.“So, anything shakin’?” He pulled out the familiar white cardboard cartons, pushing aside the flotsam on her desk to make two places amid the clutter.“Couple things.” Last from the bag were a pair of Tsingtaos, the cold brown bottles dripping condensation, and a bottle opener.“Fire crews’re still out,” she added with a glance at the scanner on the shelf above her desk. “But wrapping it up.”Despite the wintry mix pelting outside now, northern Maine was in the grip of a serious long-­term dry spell; a rash of brush fires around Bearkill had made chatter on the police band lively all day. But since the sky had opened up late this afternoon the radio spat only routine local dispatches.The cash register slip in the shopping bag said the food had come from Bangor. “Dylan, how’d you keep this stuff hot? And the beer so—­”Well, but it was no problem keeping things cold in this kind of weather, was it? On a night like tonight, back in Boston that cop scanner would be hopping with more minor vehicle mishaps than you could shake a tow truck at.Here in Bearkill, if you slid into a ditch most likely your neighbor pulled you out. “Microwave,” Dylan explained.He gestured toward the combination convenience store and gas station down the block. It and a dozen other small businesses made up the bulk of downtown Bearkill’s commercial activity.If you could call it activity. Situated in the very rooftop of Maine at the edge of the Great North Woods, Bearkill had once been the thriving center of a booming lumber industry. But the boom had gone bust, and now drab storefront tenants like the Cut-­n-­Run hair salon, the Paper Chase office and party supply store (balloon bouquets our specialty!), a tae kwon do studio, and the New to You used-­clothing exchange dominated what remained.“There’s a few pretty beat-­looking forest service guys and gals in that convenience store right now,” Dylan added, sounding sympathetic.The combination gas station and snack vendor was called—­really, a less appetizing name could not have been found, Lizzie thought—­the Go-­Mart. “What I heard, they’ve been out trenching in the fields and forests for nearly twenty-­four hours,” he said.By this time in a normal year, the fire danger in the area would be long over. But it had not been a normal year.Dylan shook his head ruefully. “Digging firebreaks, that’s no-­kidding hard labor. Remind me of that the next time you hear me bitching about my job, will you?”“Um. Yeah.” On the shelf with the scanner was a framed commendation from the Boston PD, where until two months earlier Lizzie had been a member of the elite Homicide/Violent Crimes Investigation Unit. Beside those items, a Lucite stand held a snapshot of a little blond girl.The little blond girl was the reason that Lizzie was no longer in Boston, and no longer a homicide cop. “They’re catching a break now, though,” she added, waving out at the sleet.She debated telling Dylan about the other thing she’d been working today. If she did, she’d have a much harder time getting rid of him after dinner.On the other hand, a second opinion might not be such a bad idea. “Listen, I’ve got a local teenager gone missing.”Just weeks earlier she’d been hired to be the eyes and ears of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department here in Bearkill. And why an ex–­Boston homicide cop had turned out to be exactly the right person for the job was a whole other story.But it was not the one preoccupying her now. “Fourteen-­year-­old—­you know the type, she thinks she’s twenty.”Northern Maine, with thousands of square miles of forests, mountains, and farm fields sparsely dotted by tiny, struggling towns much like Bearkill, was so different from Boston that it might as well have been on some other planet. But teenagers were the same just about everywhere, she was coming to realize.“I’m hitting a wall on it,” she admitted.Dylan was a murder cop, too. So he knew all about missing girls; the found ones, and the ones who never got found.Especially them.Lean and sharp-­featured, with pale skin, dark, hooded eyes, and dark, wavy hair that she happened to know curled into tight, Botticelli-­angel-­type ringlets when he was in the shower . . . Stop that, she told herself firmly. Stop it this minute.He popped the tops off both beer bottles. “Yeah, well, why don’t you fill me in on the case while you eat. Dig in.”She didn’t have to be invited twice. One of the first things a cop learned as a rookie was to eat whatever, whenever; regular mealtimes were for civilians.“Any reason you think she isn’t just a runaway?” he asked, shoveling shrimp in red curry onto hot noodles.“Yeah, there is. Couple of them, actually.” She chewed, swallowed, drank beer. A stickler for the rules would’ve said no drinking, her being on the job and all. But then a stickler probably wouldn’t have been stuck in a sleet storm way out here at the ass end of the earth.Hell, if she’d been a fourteen-­year-­old girl in this nowhere little berg, she’d have probably done a runner herself.At the same time another thought niggled persistently at her, something she was forgetting. But it remained elusive.“Tara’s taken off several times before and she’s always come back,” Lizzie said. “Everyone goes nuts looking for her for a few days, then she waltzes in like nothing happened. Even though her mother’s frantic, she thinks that’s probably how it’ll all end up this time, too. But . . .”She let her voice trail off, trying to put into words what a bad hit she got off the situation. Some things looked worrisome at first but ended up fine; others stank from the get-­go.Like this thing now. Dylan eyed the dark front window, still hissing with sleet. “Yeah. But,” he repeated. “How long?”“No one’s seen her since yesterday morning. It was a school holiday,” Lizzie replied reluctantly.It was now Tuesday night. “She’s never skipped a whole day of school before,” Lizzie added.Dylan’s eyebrows went up and down once in reply. Bad sign, they signaled.But she knew that, too. “I mean, I guess she could be just a runaway. Which is what most everyone around here is assuming.”Everyone but me. A shred of broccoli clung distractingly to his lower lip.“And like I say, the girl’s done it before. Maybe decided to push it a little further this time. But the other difference is that the earlier times she’s always phoned home to let her mom know she’s okay.”Lizzie ate a shrimp. “Not right away, maybe, but she’s always done it. This time, though, not a peep. And none of her friends knows where she is, either.”The friends had been the usual gaggle of teen girls, diffuse and dreamy with the occasional speculative glance at Lizzie’s weapon. Overall it had been like talking to a basket of kittens.“You believe them?” asked Dylan. “And is there a boyfriend?”Standard questions. The broccoli shred was gone. “Yeah, and he’s missing, too, along with his motorcycle. So duh, right?”The boy was an eighteen-­year-­old local kid with nothing on his record but a couple of misdemeanors; one was a pot bust but even that was only for possession, and the rest were just for underage drinking. So no real red flags had gone up from Aaron DeWilde, who was no Boy Scout but merely the kind of sullen, doe-­eyed misfit that girls like Tara had been finding the sensitive side of since time began.“No Amber Alert,” added Lizzie. Tara Wylie had already been the subject of two of these; each time the girl had showed up on her own, demanding to know what all the fuss was about.“Not yet, anyway. Mom’s put up a few homemade posters in case someone around here saw something but that’s all. Hey, not my decision,” she added at his look of surprise. “Maybe if I knew the girl better, I’d feel better about that, too.”“Cell phone?” Dylan scraped a slice of mushroom from one of the cartons and ate it.She shook her head. “She’s got one, but it’s a hand-­me-­down, just a cheap little burner.” No GPS tracking software in it. “And either it’s turned off or the battery’s dead.”Outside, the sleet stopped suddenly as if a switch had been thrown. “Damn,” Lizzie said.Since her arrival here in Bearkill, the weather had featured a single blizzard that met all her expectations for a take-­no-­prisoners northern Maine winter event. But the snow had melted swiftly, leaving the rural terrain looking oddly like the “after” pictures on a global-­warming-­alert website: cracked soil, spring-­fed ponds dried to muck-­holes, withered winter wheat.Tonight’s sleet, in fact, was only the second measurable precipitation since Labor Day, all moisture instantly inhaled by the fiery breath of a summer that, but for the one brief wintry interlude, just wouldn’t quit. And the weather now, while impressive to look at, was giving little relief to the desperately parched earth.“All the fire teams’ll be right back out there tomorrow,” predicted Dylan, eyeing the streaming front window skeptically.Chewing, she nodded agreement. The danger had been critical for weeks, everyone in the county on high alert for the smell of smoke; in the grand scheme of things tonight meant nothing.“What’s that sticking out of your shirt?” A corner of some thinly woven silvery material peeked from above his loosened tie.Dylan rolled his eyes. “New vest. Testing it out for a little while. I guess the brass in Augusta decided I wasn’t bulletproof enough.”“Yeah, well, I don’t blame them. You must be killing them in workers’ comp alone, not to mention their safety stats.”She touched her napkin to her lips, then wadded it. “You’ve been nailed three times, right? Or four? It’s a wonder you don’t have lead poisoning by now.”He nodded, grimacing. Dylan liked to pretend it was no big deal, getting shot. But she noticed he wasn’t complaining about the new vest.“It’s been comfy enough so far. Not heavy or bulky, and they tell me it’s chock-­full of bullet-­stopping space-­age polymers,” he said. “For what that’s worth.” Then:“Little bird called me today,” he remarked.She swallowed. So that’s why he was here. “About . . . ?”But she knew. Nicki. She looked up again at the blond child in the framed photo. Nine years old, eight years missing . . . If she was still alive she was Lizzie’s only surviving kin, the daughter of Lizzie’s murdered sister, Cecily, whose body had been found nearly a decade earlier on the Maine coast.Oh, Sissy, I’m so sorry . . . After Sissy’s death there’d been a murder investigation with all the right bells and whistles. But no culprit, or any possible motives, had ever been found, and her baby wasn’t found, either. And now there were rumors that a little girl very like what Nicki would’ve grown up into had been spotted here in Aroostook County.More than rumors, actually. It was why Lizzie was here. She looked away from the photo.“Yeah,” said Dylan. “Guy I talked to says it might be Nicki, anyway. But don’t get your hopes up,” he added unnecessarily.The food was gone. She gathered the cartons and napkins and the plastic cutlery together to stuff into the trash. Later she would haul the bag to the dumpster behind the building. It was a far cry from what she’d gotten used to in the Boston PD where, to a decorated homicide cop like herself, handling the trash meant snapping a set of cuffs onto it.In Bearkill, in fact, everything was a far cry from Boston. But she’d been here only a few weeks, she reminded herself. She couldn’t very well give up on looking for Nicki when she’d barely settled in.“So what else did your guy say?” she asked when Dylan came back from rinsing the beer bottles in the washroom.Recycling bottles and cans was huge around here, not so much for the environment as for the nickels, northern Maine not being a high-­income territory unless you were a lumber company manager or farm-­equipment distributor.Or a methamphetamine cook. Just in the time she’d been here the MDEA had busted a trio of operations, small teams making the lethally attractive drug in mobile homes or at remote, unlikely-­to-­be-­stumbled-­upon campsites.“Says he saw a kid.” Dylan put a hand companionably on her arm as he passed, let it rest there for a more-­than-­companionable moment. “With a couple. Transient. Living out of a car, he said.”“Oh, great.” From what she could tell so far, poverty in Maine boiled down, as it had anywhere she’d ever been, to people just doing what they could to keep a roof over their heads. Like those meth cooks, even; it was a filthy, dangerous, and basically depraved way to make a living, but there weren’t many jobs around here and people had expenses to cover.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Girls She Left Behind   “[Sarah] Graves writes at full strength when she’s focused on this economically depressed region, once the hub of a thriving lumber industry but now mostly the domain of meth cooks, unhappy teenagers and scores of volunteer firefighters battling tenacious blazes in the surrounding forest. . . . [A] rugged landscape with its down-to-earth characters.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times  “Graves is firing on all cylinders. Lizzie Snow is a dynamic protagonist, just the right blend of capable and flawed. The fictional town of Bearkill is definitely coming into its own—the richness of the backdrop seems destined only to increase. And Graves has spent years demonstrating an ability to construct textured, nuanced mysteries. Put it all together and The Girls She Left Behind is another worthwhile entry in this series.”—The Maine Edge “Graves’s dark second Lizzie Snow mystery examines the ugly, soul-destroying things that mark the aftermath of a child abduction.”—Publishers Weekly   “Insightful and twisted . . . an action-packed psychological thriller that readers cannot put down . . . This haunting novel is a must-read.”—RT Book Reviews   “[A] tense and fast-paced tale of love gone horribly and fantastically wrong.”—Kirkus Reviews   “Well-observed and craftily orchestrated, The Girls She Left Behind is a solid entry in what is shaping up to be a strong Maine mystery series. Readers are likely to warm to Lizzie Snow and eagerly await her next appearance.”—Portland Press-Herald   “An engrossing and rapid read . . . Graves is clearly an expert mystery writer and the plot contains plenty of unexpected tangles and complexities to keep fans of the genre well-entertained.”—Pop Mythology  “Sarah Graves’s Home Repair Is Homicide sort-of-cozy mysteries had enough real tension in them that they seemed to want to burst out of the cozy category. Graves has now written two hair-raising psychological suspense thrillers of stunning ingenuity featuring a former Boston homicide cop gone rural, in remote Maine woods. Darkness seems to be as much a state of mind as a state of nature there. Lizzie Snow is the cop’s name. Get to know her, but hang on to your hat.”—Sullivan County Democrat Praise for Sarah Graves’s Winter at the Door   “The stylish debut of a new series set against Maine’s dark and foreboding forests. I’m hooked!”—Margaret Maron, New York Times bestselling author of Designated Daughters   “Fast, dangerous, and extraordinarily entertaining, Winter at the Door grabbed me from the thrilling first page.”—Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Will Tell